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Nothing in the world gives us more power and confidence than

having information. The ability to communicate information is
essential to achieve the successful advancement of humankind.
Transmission of information is imperative to the expansion of
our horizons.

What does this all have to do with fiber optics? This research
paper will cover the basis of fiber optics in terms of its
transmission, communication, origin, uses and applications.

Fiber optics transports light in a very directional way. Light is

focused into and guided through a cylindrical glass fiber. Inside
the core of the fiber light bounces back and forth at angles to
the side walls, making its way to the end of the fiber where it
eventually escapes. The light does not escape through the side
walls because of total internal reflection.

Why is fiber optics so important? Besides being a flexible

conduit that is used to illuminate microscopic objects, fiber
optics can also transmit information similarly to the way a
copper wire can transmit electricity. However, copper transmits
only a few million electrical pulses per second, compared to an
optical fiber that carries up to a 20 billion light pulses per
second. This means telephone, cable and computer companies
can handle huge amounts of data transfers at once, much more
than conventional wires can carry. Fiber optic cable was
developed because of the incredible increase in the quantity of
data over the past 20 years. Without fiber optic cable, the
modern Internet and World Wide Web would not be possible.


Fiber optics is extremely thin strands of purified glass that carry

information from one point to another in the form of light.
Unlike copper wire, fiber optics does not use electricity during
transmission. Optical fibers can be either glass or plastic tubing
capable of transmitting light, which is then converted into
sound, speech or information. Fiber optic cables transmit a
digital signal via pulses of light through the very thin strands of

A basic Fiber Optic system consists of:

 a transmitting device, which generates the light signal,

 an optical fiber cable, which carries the light, and
 a receiver, which accepts the light signal that was

A fiber optic strand is about the thickness of a human hair,

about 120 micrometers in diameter and can carry as many as 20
billion light pulses per second. The fibers are bundled together
to form optical bundles, which transmit the light signals over
long distances up to 50 km without the need for repeaters.

Each Optic Fiber is made up of three main parts:

1. The core or the centre of the optical fiber is a very thin

strand of glass that carries the light signal.
2. The cladding is the optical material which reflects the light
signals back into the core. This prevents the light from
escaping and allows it to travel through the fiber.
3. The outside jacket or buffer coating is made of a plastic
material that protects the optical fiber from any moisture,
corrosion and external damage.

There are only two types of fiber optic cable:

1. Glass Optical Fibers (GOF), which are more common,

because they allow longer distance transmission and they
are more efficient.
2. Plastic Optical Fibers (POF) are used in less technical
applications and are normally used in very short-length

Optical fibers are made of very pure glass. The glass core or
centre is made of silica and is purified to minimise the loss of
signal. It then gets coated to protect the fibers and to contain
the light signals. The light signals carried by the optical cable
consist of electrical signals that have been converted or
changed into light energy.
The following process is followed to manufacture the optical

1. The Manufacturing of the Preform Blank

The silica must first be purified before it can be spun into glass
fibers. This process takes a long time and the silica is heated to
very high temperatures and then distilled to purification. The
sand is heated to a temperature that will change the silica into a
gaseous state. The silica will then be combined with other
materials called dopants, which will react with the silica (in its
gaseous state) to form the fibers. All the solid impurities are
removed and the gas is cooled to form the fiber material.

A process called modified chemical vapour deposition (MCVD)

is used to change the glass into the preform blank. During this
process oxygen is bubbled through solutions of silicon chloride
(SiCl4), germanium chloride (GeCl4) and other chemicals. The
gas vapours are channelled to the inside of a synthetic silica
quartz tube in a special lathe to form the cladding. While the
lathe rotates a burning flame is moved back and forth on the
outside of the tube.
Modified Chemical Vapour Deposition (MCVD)

The extreme heat from the burner causes the following:

 The silicon and the germanium react with oxygen to form

silicon dioxide (SiO2) and germanium dioxide (GeO2).
 The silicon dioxide and the germanium dioxide settles on
the inside of the tube and it fuses together to form glass.

The lathe turns continuously to allow the preform blank to be

coated evenly. To maintain the purity of the glass a corrosion
resistant plastic is used to accurately control the flow and the
structure of the mixture. This process of manufacturing the
preform blank takes a couple of hours. The preform blank is
cooled and is inspected for quality through an inspection and
control process.

2. Drawing Fibers from the Preform Blank

After testing the preform, it is placed into a fiber “drawing

tower.” The preform blank gets lowered into a furnace and is
heated between 1,900°C to 2,200°C until the tip starts to melt an
a molten blob starts to fall down. As it drops down, it cools and
forms a strand. This strand is pulled through a sequence of
coating cups (buffer applicators) and curing ovens using
ultraviolet light, and then coiled onto a tractor-controlled reel.
This process is accurately controlled using a laser micrometer to
measure the thickness of the fiber. This information is then sent
back to the tractor mechanism. The tractor mechanism pulls the
fibers at a rate of 10 to 20m/sec and the finished product is
wound onto a spool. A spool can contain more than 2,2km of
optical fiber
3. Testing the Finished Optical Fiber

Once the optical fiber is manufactured it goes through a process

of testing. The following tests are done:

 Tensile strength – The fibers must withstand 100,000 lb/in2

or more

Refractive index profile – Determine that the core diameter,

cladding dimensions and coating diameter are uniform.
Screen also for optical defects.
Attenuation – Determine the extent that light signals of
various wavelengths degrade or reduce over certain

Information carrying capacity (bandwidth) – the number of

signals that can be carried at one time (multi-mode fibers)

Chromatic dispersion – Spread of various wavelengths of

light through the core, this is very important for bandwidth.

Operating temperature/humidity range – Determines the

temperature and humidity that the fiber can withstand.

Ability to conduct light underwater – Important for

undersea cables

Once the fibers have passed the quality control process, they
are sold to telephone companies, cable companies and network
providers. Currently many companies are replacing their old
copper-wire-based systems with new fiber-optic-based systems
to improve speed, capacity and clarity.


There are two types of optical fibers:

1. Single Mode Fiber

Single mode fibers transmit a single data stream. The core of
the glass fiber is much finer than in multi-mode fibers. Light thus
travels parallel to the axis, creating little pulse dispersion. Data
transmission modes are higher, and the distances that single
mode fiber can cover can be over 50 times longer than multi-
mode fibers. Telephone and cable television networks install
millions of kilometers of this fiber every year.

2. Multi-Mode Fiber

Multi-mode fibers allow different data streams to be sent

simultaneously over a particular fiber. The glass fiber has a
slightly larger diameter to allow light to be sent through the
fiber at different angles. “An LED or laser light source is used in
the 50 micron and 62.5 micron fiber optic cables. They are also
used in the same networking applications. The main difference
between the two is that 50 micron fiber can support 3 times the
bandwidth of 62.5 micron fiber. The 50 micron fiber also
supports longer cable runs than 62.5 micron cable.”

Simplex cable consists of only one single fiber optic strand. The
data can only be transmitted in one direction. The duplex cable
is made up of two fiber optic strands that run side-by-side. One
strand runs from transmit to receive and the other strand joins
receive to transmit. This allows communication in both
directions (bi-directional) between devices.

Some optical fibers can be made from plastic. These fibers have
a large core (0.04 inches or 1 mm diameter) and transmit visible
red light (wavelength = 650 nm) from LEDs. Due to their inferior
optical properties, plastic fiber optic (POF) strands and cables
are not suitable for extended data transmission.

Traditionally when we sent data transmissions over copper

cables we transmit electrons over a copper conductor. “Fiber
optic cables transmit a digital signal via pulses of light through a
very thin strand of glass.” The fiber strands are extremely thin,
not much thicker than a human hair.

The basic fiber optic transmission system consists of three basic


 Transmitter

 Fiber Optic cable

 Receiver

A transmitter is connected to the one end of the fiber cable.

Electronic pulses are converted by the transmitter into light
pulses and the optical signal gets sent through the fiber cable. A
receiver on the other end decodes the optical signal into digital

The core of the cable is surrounded by a cladding which reflects

the light back into the core and eliminates light from escaping
the cable. This is called total internal reflection.

When light is sent through the core of a fiber optic cable, the
light constantly bounces off the cladding, which is highly
reflective, like a mirror-lined wall. The cladding does not absorb
any light allowing complete internal reflection and allowing the
light to travel far distances without losing its intensity.

The discovery of lasers influenced the development of fiber

optics. Lasers and LED’s can generate an enormous amount of
light in a very small area, which can successfully used in fiber

Laser diodes are complex semiconductors that convert an

electrical current into light. The process of converting the
electrical signal into light is far more efficient because it
generates less heat than an ordinary light bulb.

Reasons for using laser diodes in fiber optics:

 laser diodes are very small

 laser diodes are highly reliable and have a long life
 laser diodes have high radiance
 laser diodes emit light into a very small area
 laser diodes can be turned on and off at very high speeds


The use of fiber optics is fast becoming the medium of choice

for telecommunication systems, television transmission and data
networks. Fiber optic cables have a multitude of advantages and
benefits over the more traditional methods of information
systems, such as copper or coaxial cables.

One of the greatest benefits to using fiber optic systems is the
capacity and speed of such a system. Light travels faster than an
electrical system which allows faster delivery and reception of
information. Fiber optic cables also have a much higher capacity
for bandwidth than the more traditional copper cables.

Immunity to electromagnetic interference

Coaxial cables have a tendency for electromagnetic interference,

which renders them less effective. Fiber optics is not affected by
external electrical signals, because the data is transmitted with


Optical systems are more secure than traditional mediums.

Electromagnetic interference causes coaxial cables to leak
information. Optical fiber makes it impossible to remotely detect
the signal being transmitted within the cable. The only way to
do so is by actually accessing the optical fiber itself. Accessing
the fiber requires intervention that is easily detectable by
security surveillance. These circumstances make fiber extremely
attractive to governments, banks and companies requiring
increased security of data.

Fire prevention

Copper wire transmission can generate sparks, causing

shortages and even fire. Because fiber optical strands use light
instead of electricity to carry signals, the chance of an electrical
fire is eliminated. This makes fiber optics an exceptionally safe
form of wiring and one of the safest forms of data transmission.

Data signalling

Fiber optic systems are much more effective than coaxial or

copper systems, because there is minimal loss of data. This can
be credited to the design of optical fibers, because of the
principle of total internal reflection. The cladding increases the
effectiveness of data transmission significantly. There is no
crosstalk between cables, e.g. telephone signals from overseas
using a signal bounced off a communications satellite, will result
in an echo being heard. With undersea fiber optic cables, you
have a direct connection with no echoes.

Unlike electrical signals in copper wires the light signals from

one fiber do not interfere with those of other fibers in the same
cable. This means clearer phone conversations or TV reception.

Less expensive

Several kilometers of optical cable can be made far cheaper

than equivalent lengths of copper wire. Service, such as the
internet is often cheaper because fiber optic signals stay strong
longer, requiring less power over time to transmit signals than
copper-wire systems, which need high-voltage transmitters.

Large Bandwidth, Light Weight and Small Diameter

Modern applications require increased amounts of bandwidth or
data capacity, fiber optics can carry much larger bandwidth
through a much smaller cable and they aren’t prone to the loss
of information. With the rapid increase of bandwidth demand,
fiber optics will continue to play a vital role in the long-term
success of telecommunications.

Space constraints of many end-users are easily overcome

because new cabling can be installed within existing duct
systems. The relatively small diameter and light weight of optical
cables makes such installations easy and practical.

Easy Installation and Upgrades

Long lengths of optical cable make installation much easier and

less expensive. Fiber optic cables can be installed with the same
equipment that is used to install copper and coaxial cables.

Long Distance Signal Transmission

The low attenuation and superior signal capacity found in

optical systems allow much longer intervals of signal
transmission than metallic-based systems. Metal based systems
require signal repeaters to perform satisfactory. Fiber optic
cables can transmit over 100km with no active or passive
processing. Even greater distances are being investigated for the
To use fiber optics in data systems have proven to be a far
better alternative to copper wire and coaxial cables. As new
technologies are developed, transmission will become even
more efficient, assuring the expansion of telecommunication,
television and data network industries.


Despite the many advantages of fiber optic systems, there are

some disadvantages.

The relative new technology of fiber optic makes the

components expensive. Fiber optic transmitters and receivers
are still somewhat expensive compared to electrical
components. The absence of standardisation in the industry has
also limited the acceptance of fiber optics. Many industries are
more comfortable with the use of electrical systems and are
reluctant to switch to fiber optics.

The cost to install fiber optic systems is falling because of an

increase in the use of fiber optic technology. As more
information about fiber optics is made available to educate
managers and technicians, the use of fiber optics in the industry
will increase over time.

The advantages and the need for more capacity and

information will also increase the use of fiber optics.

As the popularity of optical fibers continue to grow, so does

their applications and practical uses. Fiber optic cables became
more and more popular in a variety of industries and

Communications / Data Storage

Since fiber optics are resistant

to electronic noise, fiber optics
has made significant advances
in the field of communications.
The use of light as its source of
data transmission has
improved the sound quality in voice communications. It is also
being used for transmitting and receiving purposes.

Optical systems offer more
security than traditional metal-
based systems. The magnetic
interference allows the leak of
information in the coaxial cables.
Fiber optics is not sensitive to
electrical interference; therefore
fiber optics is suitable for military
application and communications, where signal quality and
security of data transmission are important.

The increased interest of the military in this technology caused

the development of stronger fibers, tactical cables and high
quality components. It was also applied in more varied areas
such as hydrophones for seismic and SONAR, aircrafts,
submarines and other underwater applications.


Fiber optic are used as light guides,

imaging tools and as lasers for
surgeries. Another popular use of fiber-
optic cable is in an endoscope, which is
a diagnostic instrument that enables
users to see through small holes in the
body. Medical endoscopes are used for minimally invasive
exploratory or surgical procedures. Fiber optics is also used in
bronchoscopes and laparoscopes.

All versions of endoscopes look like a long thin tube, with a lens
or camera at one end through which light is emitted from the
bundle of optical fibers banded together inside the enclosure.

Mechanical or Industrial

Industrial endoscopes also

called a borescope or
fiberscope, enables the user
to observe areas that are
difficult to reach or see
under normal
circumstances, such as jet
engine interiors, inspecting
mechanical welds in pipes and engines, inspecting space
shuttles and rockets. Inspection of sewer lines and pipes.

Fiber optic is used to connect
servers and users in a variety of
network settings. It increases the
speed, quality and accuracy of
data transmission. Computer and
Internet technology has improved
due to the enhanced transmission
of digital signals through optical fibers.


Fiber optics are used for imaging in areas which are difficult to
reach. It is also used in wiring where electromagnetic
interference is an problem. It gets used often as sensory devices
to make temperature, pressure and other measurements as well
as in the wiring of motorcars and in industrial settings.


Optical fiber bundles are used

to transmit light from a
spectrometer to a substance
which cannot be placed inside
the spectrometer itself, in
order to analyse its
composition. A spectrometer analyses substances by bouncing
light off of and through them. By using optical fibers, a
spectrometer can be used to study objects that are too large to
fit inside, or gasses, or reactions which occur in pressure vessels

Broadcast/CATV/Cable Television

Broadcast or cable companies use fiber optic cables for wiring

CATV, HDTV, internet, video and other applications.

Usage of fiber-optic cables in the cable-television industry

began in 1976 and quickly spread because of the superiority of
fiber optic cable over traditional coaxial cable. Fiber optic
systems became less expensive and capable of transmitting
clearer signals further away from the source signal. It also
reduced signal losses and decreased the number of amplifiers
required for each customer. Fiber optic cable allows cable
providers to offer better service, because only one optical line is
needed for every ± 500 households.

Lighting and Imaging

Fiber optic cables are used for

lighting and imaging and as
sensors to measure and monitor a
vast range of variables. It is also
used in research, development and testing in the medical,
technological and industrial fields.

Fiber optics are used as light guides in medical and other

applications where bright light needs to shine on a target
without a clear line-of-sight path. In some buildings, optical
fibers are used to route sunlight from the roof to other parts of
the building. Optical fiber illumination is also used for decorative
applications, including signs, art and artificial Christmas trees.

Optical fiber is an essential part of the light-transmitting

concrete building product, LiTraCon which is a translucent
concrete building material.

With the introduction of highly transparent fiber-optic cable in
the 1970s, very high-frequency laser signals now carry
phenomenal loads of telephone conversations and data across
the country and around the world.

From surgical procedures to worldwide communication via the

internet, fiber optic has revolutionised our world. Fiber optics
has made important contributions to the medical field,
especially with regards to surgery. One of the most useful
characteristics of optical fibers is their ability to enter the minute
passageways and hard-to-reach areas of the human body. But
perhaps the greatest contribution of the 20th century is the
combination of fiber optics and electronics to transformed