optical fibre

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optical fibre

(fibre optics, FO, US "fiber", light pipe) A plastic or glass (silicon dioxide) fibre no thicker than a human hair used to transmit information using infra-red or even visible light as the carrier (usually a laser). The light beam is an electromagnetic signal with a frequency in the range of 10^14 to 10^15 Hertz.

Optical fibre is less susceptible to external noise than other transmission media, and is cheaper to make than copper wire, but it is much more difficult to connect. Optical fibres are difficult to tamper with (to monitor or inject data in the middle of a connection), making them appropriate for secure communications. The light beams do not escape from the medium because the material used provides total internal reflection.

AT&T Bell Laboratories in the United States managed to send information at a rate of 420 megabits per second, over 161.5 km through an optical fibre cable. In Japan, 445.8 megabits per second was achieved over a shorter distance. At this rate, the entire text of the Encyclopedia Britannica could be transmitted in one second. Currently, AT&T is working on a world network to support high volume data transmission, international computer networking, electronic mail and voice communications (a single fibre can transmit 200 million telephone conversations simultaneously).

See also FDDI, Optical Carrier n, SONET.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (foldoc.org)

optical fiber

A thin glass strand designed for light transmission. A single hair-thin fiber is capable of transmitting trillions of bits per second. In addition to their huge transmission capacity, optical fibers offer many advantages over electricity and copper wire. Light pulses are not affected by random radiation in the environment, and their error rate is significantly lower. Fibers allow longer distances to be spanned before the signal has to be regenerated by expensive "repeaters." Fibers are more secure, because taps in the line can be detected, and lastly, fiber installation is streamlined due to its dramatically lower weight and smaller size compared to copper cables.

Starting in the 1970s
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, telephone companies began to use fibers extensively to rebuild their communications infrastructure. According to KMI Corporation, specialists in fiber optic market research, by the end of 1990 there were approximately eight million miles of fiber laid in the U.S. (this is miles of fiber, not miles of cable which can contain many fibers). By the end of 2000, there were 80 million miles in the U.S. and 225 million worldwide. Fiber is also used to replace copper cable for LAN backbones.

Pure Glass
An optical fiber is constructed of a transparent core made of nearly pure silicon dioxide (SiO2), through which the light travels. The core is surrounded by a cladding layer that reflects light, guiding the light along the core. A plastic coating covers the cladding to protect the glass surface. Cables also include fibers of Kevlar and/or steel wires for strength and an outer sheath of plastic or Teflon for protection.

Enormous Bandwidth
For glass fibers, there are two "optical windows" where the fiber is most transparent and efficient. The centers of these windows are 1300 nm and 1550 nm, providing approximately 18,000 GHz and 12,000 GHz respectively, for a total of 30,000 GHz. This enormous bandwidth is potentially usable in one fiber. The only limitation is the electronic circuits that modulate the light waves to represent the data. Electronic ciruits have yet to come close to the frequencies of light.

Singlemode and Multimode
There are two types of glass fiber. For intercity cabling and highest speed, singlemode fiber with a core diameter of less than 10 microns is used. Multimode fiber is very common for short distances and has a core diameter from 50 to 100 microns.

Plastic Fiber Too
For short-distance runs such as within buildings, plastic fiber is also used, and their transparent windows are typically 650 nm or within the 750-900 nm range. Plastic optical fiber (POF) is easier to install than glass but requires repeaters for distances greater than 100 meters. See laser, WDM, fiber optics glossary and cable categories.

Fiber Strands
The fibers in this picture are being prepared for splicing in a wiring closet. These few strands can collectively transmit trillions of bits per second. (Image courtesy of Corning Incorporated.)

Fiber vs. Copper
Not only does optical fiber offer enormous bandwidth, but it takes a lot less room. Any one of these copper bundles can be replaced with one fiber strand (center). (Image courtesy of Corning Incorporated.)

Fiber-Optic Cable
This Lucent fiber-optic cable holds 288 fibers, which was a record-high fiber count in 1996. Cables with more than a thousand fibers have since been developed.

Laying Optical Fiber
Embedding thousands of miles of fiber in the ground has been a Herculean feat undertaken by many companies. In time, all copper wires are expected to give way to fiber. (Image courtesy of Metromedia Fiber Network.)
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References in periodicals archive ?
Other work packages will develop new methods of interconnecting these new optical fibres to more conventional fibre types as well as other optical components such as lasers--essential if the new technology is to be compatible with existing components and cables.
Our new AirGuide Photonics programme will continue to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with optical fibres and develop a disruptive technology that puts the UK at the forefront of optical technology.'
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To date, Optical Fibre Flag Labels have been tested against High and Low Temperatures, Moisture Resistance, H2S Sour Gas and Salt Mist Spray Exposure and 1000 hours accelerated UV.
FBPI broadband optical fibre is designed for high performance spectroscopy applications, including optical fibre testing, environmental monitoring, gas phase measurements, and lasers.
The integration of optical fibres and chips is difficult for many reasons.
To do this, they used high-pressure chemistry techniques to deposit semiconducting materials directly, layer by layer, into tiny holes in optical fibres.
But in August, 2001, the American parent company said it wanted to cut its worldwide optical fibre workforce by 1,000.

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