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Optical fiber: understand how it works

Because the world won’t connect itself

Do you know what optical fiber is? Understand everything about the advantages and disadvantages, the existing types and more!

Have you noticed the expansive technological evolution that we have witnessed in the last decades?

The era of dial-up internet is long overdue and innovative technology has emerged, enabling high-speed data transmission. This essential tool for our day is called fiber optics.

Today, we can communicate, watch videos and listen to music in an unimaginable way a few years ago. All of this with a high level of performance, thanks to the human capacity to develop innovative techniques and technologies.

The type of fiber we will talk about today is related to the high performance of the internet, in addition to being the most advanced and innovative in terms of connectivity for the convenience of the consumer.

In this article, you will understand what this technology is, how it works and why it revolutionized the way we use the internet.

What is optical fiber?

Basically, it is a highly flexible, transparent filament, manufactured using glass or extruded plastic. It serves as a great conductor of light, images, as well as encoded impulses.

It is usually produced in the diameter of a few micrometers, slightly thicker than a human hair. This fiber is extremely important for the data communication system, as it does not suffer from the interference of electromagnetism.

In the beginning, optical fibers were used to guide transmissions of optical signals, but which operated over a limited distance. They lost light during transmission, suffered from the high heat that lasers radiated, and presented some problems with splices.

However, during the 1970s, the techniques used for optical processes were significantly improved. With this, it was possible to monitor the quantities and the transmissions of information over a long distance.

In Europe, this technology was only introduced in 1978, when the first optical cable system was part of the public telephone network installed between the Post Office Research Center in Martlesham and the Ipswich telephone exchange.

What constitutes optical fiber?

Basically, this material consists of a central core in a cylindrical shape, transparent and made of glass. Outside, it is surrounded by a layer that presents a lower level of refraction, a characteristic that allows the total transfer (or reflection) of light in the extension of the cable.

To summarize, this technology is composed of a nuclear material of greater refraction, surrounded by a layer that presents a lower index of this phenomenon.

There is also a coating made of plastic, which serves to protect its interior from external damage.

How does fiber optics work?

Its operation occurs by the transmitted light that follows the fibrous system in a single principle. This happens regardless of the material used or that of its application.

The process takes place by a light beam launched at one end of the filament. It runs through its entire structure through successive reflections, thanks to the optical characteristics of the nucleus.

As stated earlier, this material has two basic structures: core and outer sheath. Inside, there is the reflection of the main light, but its transmission within the fiber occurs thanks to the difference in refraction between the outer coating and the nucleic material.

In this way, the highest level of refraction is always related to the center of the material, which is combined with the angle of incidence of the light beam, allowing total reflection to happen.

In short, the reflection of light is maintained by the core system, where total reflection occurs inside. This process allows the fiber to transmit light waves from one side to the other.

What are the differentials of optical fiber?

There are other technologies, used in software engineering that also enable data transmission, but there are marked differences, in the quality of transmission, from one material to another.

We can mention, for example, networks developed through copper wiring. They guarantee common DSL connections and offer transmission speeds, on average, between 768 Kb/s and 1.5 Mb/s.

In turn, the fiber optic internet is better, enabling fast transmissions, ranging from 50 Mb/s to 100 Mb/s. There are cases where this data transfer occurs between 1 Gb/s and 10 Gb/s.

The reason behind this huge difference is related to the fact that, by reflecting light impulses instead of electricity, the fiber of optical signals reaches frequencies much higher than the old-fashioned electrical stimuli of copper.

This flow of energy generated by the material in question can be understood by a greater number of pulses of light in a unit of time, thus explaining the marked speed of this type of cable.

Optical fiber: advantages

You have just read that this material has the ability to convey information at a much higher level. There are other benefits related to the use of this technology.

Check the list now with some advantages of fiber optics:

  • reducing the size of the material;
  • high transmission of information;
  • immunization related to electromagnetic interference;
  • high availability of raw material;
  • stabilization of the transmission signal;
  • facilitation of the installation process;
  • reduced deterioration of the material compared to copper.

Despite all these benefits, there are some drawbacks and disadvantages regarding the use of this material:

  • high cost of implantation;
  • fragility of cables in encapsulation sheaths;
  • difficulty in branching networks;
  • infeasibility of supply by remote repeaters;
  • low standardization of optical elements.

Optical fiber types

Cables of this type are produced in two different models by the industries. For you to stay even more on the subject, check out now what they are:

Optical fiber: single mode

This model allows only one light signal per filament. Its core ranges from 8 to 9 μm, with an external coating of 125 μm. Therefore, it has lower dimensions than other fibers.

Its structured cabling system has a limited range of 4 km. It has a larger bandwidth, with less dispersion. The wavelength of this cable varies from 1,310 to 1550 nm.

Lasers are usually used to generate your signal.

Optical fiber: multimode

This is the most common primary cabling in inter- and intra-buildings. Its core ranges from 50 to 62.5 μm, equivalent to the thousandth part of a millimeter, and its outer coating is equivalent to 125 μm. Its relatively large diameter makes it easier for light sources of poor precision to be attached to the connectors. Its range is limited to 2 km for each structured cabling.

Multimode optics is widely used for shorter distances, exactly for the price and ease of implementation. In the case of long-distance structures, a lot of refractive loss occurs.

LED sources, which have low luminous occurrence, are ideal for this type of cable.

Were you able to understand a little about how optical fiber works?

You read about how it works, discovering that it has a core and an outer layer. You also saw that the refraction of light is an important process for the proper functioning of this structure.

You discovered the advantages and disadvantages of using fiber optic cable and that our life, especially with regard to the use of the internet, would not be the same without it.

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