How Do Fiber Optic Cables Transmit Data?
The Functionality of Fiber Optic Cables Discussed
What is fiber optics?
Information can be transmitted in many ways, some which you are probably very familiar with such as wire cables and radio waves. Fiber optics are another way of transmitting information, but instead of physical cables or radio waves, fiber optics uses light to transmit information. The information is coded into the beam of light down a fiber, a glass, or plastic pipe. Historically, this was developed to help physicians in the 1950s obtain visualization of the human body without surgery via the use of endoscopes. Only a decade later, this technology was being used to transmit telephone calls at the speed of light.
What is the optical technology involved?
A fiber optic cable is composed of multiple optical fibers, which are thin strands of plastic or glass. There can be as few as two fibers or up to many hundreds of fibers in an optical cable. Each fiber is an order of magnitude thinner than the average human hair and can transmit tens of thousands of telephone calls. The information is transmitted between sender and receiver entirely through light based technology.
In a simple scenario, the sender uses a laser to convert the pertinent information into light pulses. These light pulses are then transmitted through the fiber optic cable and can be detected at the other end. The receiver then uses a light detector, or photoelectric cell, to convert the light pulses back into the original information.
How does it work?
The light pulses are essentially tiny particles of light ricocheting down each optical fiber of the fiber optic cables. The light is kept inside the pipe by utilizing two things: the principle of total internal reflection and the structure of the cable itself. Light traveling in a clear glass filament can leak out of the edges, but if the light strikes the glass at a shallow angle, then total internal reflection occurs and the light is contained within the glass filament. The optical cable itself is constructed of two separate parts. The core of the cable, where the light travels, is in the middle. The cladding is a layer of glass around the core which helps keep the light signals contained within the core.
What is it used for?
Fiber optic cables are used to transmit information for a variety of applications such as computer networking and broadcasting. For computer networks, fiber optic cables provide information transfer with less attenuation, no interference, and higher bandwidth. In other words, information can be transmitted up to ten times the usual distance before having to amplify the signal. This cuts down on both operation and maintenance costs. Unlike traditional copper cables, there is no electromagnetic interference, leading to more reliable signal quality. Compared to traditional cables, fiber optic cables can carry much more data per spatial volume utilized. Broadcasting companies also use fiber optic cables because of their higher information transfer capacity and better signal quality.
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