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David Denham

2307ENG – Electromagnetic Waves and

Propagating Systems




Experiment Number 1

‘Optical Fiber Techniques’

Student Name David Denham

Date August, 2010
Student No s2679956
Partner Melissa Tremayne
Student Contact david.denham@student.griffith.edu.au

The report presented is the sole work of the author. None of this report is
plagiarized (in whole or part) from a fellow student’s work, or from any un-
referenced outside source.

David Denham
2307ENG – Electromagnetic Waves and
Propagating Systems


(a) Explain the difference between a graded index fibre and a step
index fibre. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the two
Optical Fibres are a mode of data communication in which light is
guided through thin dielectric rods made of glass or transparent
plastic. The inner dielectric rod is covered in a cladding with a lower
refractive index to confine the light to travelling within the rod. The
Fibres come in different varieties depending on the application, each
with a different Refractive Index Profile, which can be seen in Fig1.0.

Figure 1.0 – Refractive Index Profile [1]

In a step index fibre the refractive index (n) of the core is uniform
and the cladding has a lower value of n (fig1.1) causing the light to
be guided down the core. Step index fibres work on the principle of
total internal reflection. The light entering the fibre must be within
the acceptance angle (θa) to be transmitted.

David Denham
2307ENG – Electromagnetic Waves and
Propagating Systems

Figure 1.1 – Step Index Fibre Cross-Section [2]

In figure 1.1 there are three rays of light being transmitted down the
core of the fibre:

-The first ray is outside of the acceptance angle and isn’t

-The second ray reflects on the cladding whilst travelling down
the fibre.
-The third travels along the axis of the fibre allowing for a
shorter distance travelled

The difference in distances the light has to travel means the ray of
light travelling down the axis will be transmitted quicker than the
second ray. This phenomenon is known as modal dispersion.
Step index fibres are cheap to produce because of the simplicity of
the refractive index profile of the core. This cheaper design however
leads to the susceptibility of modal dispersion.

Figure 1.2 – Graded Index Fibre Cross-Section [3]

In a graded index fibre, the refractive index (n) of the core gradually
decreases in an almost parabolic function with increasing radial
distance from the centre of the core. The rays of light transmitted
through a graded fibre travel in an almost sinusoidal path because
of the design process used in developing the core.
Graded index fibres are less prone to modal dispersion because of
the difference in the speed the light rays travel through the varying
refractive indices. The rays travelling through the centre axis travel
slower because of the higher refractive index at the centre of the
core. The rays with the higher incidence angle have to move further,
but travel faster because of the lower refractive index of the outer

David Denham
2307ENG – Electromagnetic Waves and
Propagating Systems

edges of the core. This means that the waves are more likely to
travel through the fibre at the same speed, reducing the effects of
modal dispersion.
The more consistent travel times for the light rays in a graded index
fibre makes it more suitable for long distance applications. It is also
less prone to microbending and macrobending, however because of
the complex core; it is generally more expensive than Step Index
Experimental Data

Acceptance Angle Sin(θi) Power (nW)

-30 -0.50 3.4
-25 -0.42 23
-20 -0.34 30
-15 -0.26 40
-10 -0.17 500
-5 -0.09 3400
0 0.00 4000
5 0.09 2700
10 0.17 700
15 0.26 92
20 0.34 60
25 0.42 35
30 0.50 3.3

Table 1.0 – Numerical Aperture (NA) Measurement

David Denham
2307ENG – Electromagnetic Waves and
Propagating Systems

Figure 1.3 – Numerical Aperture Calculation Graph

David Denham
2307ENG – Electromagnetic Waves and
Propagating Systems

-0.210 0.235
Figure 1.4 – Zoomed Numerical Aperture
Calculation Graph

Numerical Aperture (NA) Experimental Calculations:

Power at 5% of the max intensity = 200nW

Half width at 200nW = Measuered NA = 0.223
Acceptance angle = sin-1(Half Width) = 12.86°

Refractive index of core = nf = 1.48

Refractive index of cladding = nc = 1.46
Calculated NA = 0.242

Numerical aperture is defined as the range of angles a fibre can

recieve or emit light. It is a dimensionless value and can be
calculated using the sine of half of the acceptance angle.

The numerical aperture value obtained through measurements was

found to be 0.223. The value caluclated when using typical values
for the refractive indices of a multimode step index fibre was found
to be 0.242.

The similarity in results illustrate that the method used in the

experiment to determine the NA was done effectively. The minor
difference in values can be accredited to a few flaws encounted
during the experiment;

• Imperfections in the incidence face of the fibre

• Incorrect allignment between the HeNe laser, the fibre and the
optical power meter
• Microbending and macrobending
• Absorption due to molecular imperfections or lack of optical purity
• Scattering, due to impurites in the fibre

David Denham
2307ENG – Electromagnetic Waves and
Propagating Systems

• Damage to the cladding allowing small amounts of the light to

escape the fibre

D) Attenuation Measurement

z = Spool length = 111m

I(z) = Power reading (0.111km) = 4uW
I(0) = Power reading (0.001km) = 5uW
Γ = Attenuation Coefficient (dB/km) = 8.81 dB/km

Γ = Attenuation Coefficient (W/m) = 2.029 mW/m

Attenuation is a measurement of the optical power lost in the

transmission of light through a fibre optic.

From Figure 1 of the ‘Laboratory Manual v2’, it can be seen that for
a HeNe laser of λ=633nm, the attenuation coefficient of the fibre
should be approximately 3dB/km. When measured and calculated in
the experiment however, the attenuation coefficient was
determined to be 8.81dB/km.

The significantly higher attenuation value can be attributed to the

same imperfections of the experiment found when calculating the
numerical aperture values above. However, the main cause of
discrepancies in the attenuation experiment can primarily be
attributed to the differences in the:

• Alignment of the HeNe laser, the fibre and the optical power
• Quality of the cleaving of the fibre

When re-cleaving and repositioning the 111m spool of fibre optic for
the 1m of fibre optic, it was near impossible to recreate the exact
same conditions. This would greatly affect the calculations of the

In this experiment, an understanding of the operation and handling
of optical fibre communication systems was obtained. The ability to

David Denham
2307ENG – Electromagnetic Waves and
Propagating Systems

measure the numerical aperture and attenuation on a fibre and an

understanding of the effect these cause the communication of
signals was acquired. The attenuation and NA was experimentaly
determined to be; 8.81 dB/km and 0.223 respectively .

David Denham
2307ENG – Electromagnetic Waves and
Propagating Systems


[1] Optical Fibre Refractive Index Profile, Fibre Optics for sale Co,
viewed 12th August 2010,

[2] John R. Vacca, Total internal reflection in multimode step-index fiber,

Optical Networking Best Practices Handbook, viewed 12th August
2010, http://www.globalspec.com/reference/10058/160210/Section-

[3] Graded Index Fibre Modes, Fibre Optics for sale Co, viewed 12th
August 2010, <http://www.fiberoptics4sale.com/wordpress/fiber-

Ulaby, F.T, Fundamentals of Applied Electromagnetics, Fifth Edition,

2006, Pearson
Prentice Hall. Section 8.3 p. 335.

2001, Numerical Aperture Measurement Method, Corning, accessed

12th August 2010, <