All too often, the humble cable is overlooked in discussions of modern technological advancements, despite it being a crucial component of most larger-scale electrical and electronic systems today. However, a new advancement has been outperforming the traditional copper cable we see today, an advancement that holds great promise for the future of human technology and capability. For several years, fiber optic cables have begun to proliferate throughout high-tech market due to their vastly superior speed and versatility. From WiFi to imaging and just about everything in between, fiber optic technology has been increasingly prevalent in our already technology-laden world. With that said, how do these things work? What is it that makes fiber optic technology so darn good?
At their cores, fiber optic cables are often composed of silica glass, which provides minimal loss in infrared signals, although for shorter distances, plastic can serve as a suitable alternative. The primary reasoning behind the usage of these materials in fiber optic technology is largely due to the fact that unlike with traditional copper wires, fiber optic cables transmit information through light as opposed to electricity.
As can be seen below, fiber optic cables have a multitude of layers to them(just like ogres). Around the center layer is a reflective cladding, and surrounding that is a coating. For further reinforcement and insulation, strengthening fibers and a cable jacket are used.
In a fiber optic system, a transmitter sends the signals down the wire over to the receiving end. The light is flashed in the correct sequence so as to generate the correct signal to be read on the other side. Common wavelengths used in fiber optics are 850 nm, 1350 nm, and 1550 nm, all within the spectrum of infrared light. Along the cable, signal loss may occur due to impurities in the glass or plastic used for the core and cladding. As such, optical regenerators are placed along the way that contain a special “doping” layer that is pumped with a laser. The molecules in the “doping” layer become lasers themselves and emit a new, more powerful form of the incoming light signal. Finally, on the other end, there is an optical receiver that receives and decodes the light signal, transforming it into readable information.
Fiber optic cables are lighter, less expensive, non-flammable, have a higher carrying capacity, and require less power than traditional electrical cables. For this reason, they have many modern practical applications such as Internet signals, medical equipment, imaging technology, and other areas. It is clear that fiber optic technology is the future, and as time goes on, most electrical cables will be replaced with newer, more advanced digital fiber optic cables. One can only think of the newfound possibilities such a technological revolution will bring…