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A Guide To The Basic Principles Of Fibre Optics

Aug 18, 2008
For years information was transmitted using electronic pulses down a copper wire as this was thought to be the most effective method available. This was until 1970 when the application of light refraction science was combined with cutting-edge engineering to create fibre optics. It is a unique triumph of the two disciplines and has revolutionised the way in which we communicate.

The science that fibre optics is based on is directing light by refraction. This was first demonstrated in 1840s Paris and in the early 1920s image transmission through tubes was demonstrated. These early forms of optic transmission paved the way for the innovation of glass-clad fibres which were then applied to data transmission in the 1970s.

Fibre optics is different from electronic transmission because as the name suggests it transmits light instead of electric energy. This is done through a cable that requires specific components in order to operate effectively. The most important element is the glass or plastic core which is where all the information is transmitted from, so if you shine a light down a fibre optic cable then a light should be emitted from the other end.

The data starts out transmitted via copper wire until it reaches a converter which converts the coded electronic pulse information into light pulse. Then the light enters the fibre optics core of the wire and goes through a process of reflection. This is based on the scientific principal called total reflection. This occurs when a surface has a certain critical value that traps light.

The light then travels at enormous speed along the fibre optics core to another converter which converts the light pulses back into electronic pulse information. The benefits of fibre optics over electronic pulse technology are significant. These advantages include: speed, bandwidth, distance, resistance and maintenance.

Fibre optics are immune to electromagnetic interference from electric motors or lightning as the core is not magnetic or a conductor unlike a copper wire. Fibre optics are much lighter as they require no heavy core like a bulky copper wire however they store much more data and fibre optics require fewer repeaters to prevent a signal from loosing clarity.

If you made a bisection of a standard fibre optics cable you would see the aforementioned core in the centre made from glass fibre, plastic fibre or photonic crystal fibre. Around it is a fibre coating, a strengthening layer and a PCV jacket around the outside. Along a standard network cable such as this, 10 million bits of information can be carried per second, enough for thousands of phone calls.

Fibre optics are the cutting edge technology in communications, networking, internet technology and electronics industry sectors to name but a few. Fibre optics is being applied to technology in medical, manufacturing and engineering industry sectors with continuous research and developments being made into new fibre optics technologies.
About the Author
Shaun Parker is an expert on the science behind fibre optics and has years of experience in communication technology.
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