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Uses of Optical fibres 

Optical fibres

Optical fibres are hollow, flexible, transparent, tube-like wires made from plastic or glass and have a very small diameter. Optical fibres are used to transmit light and are predominantly used in fibre-optic communications because they facilitate transmission over longer distances and at higher bandwidth levels. Optical fibres are advantageous over metal cables because there is a lower degree of loss involved when a signal is being transmitted through them. Moreover, since optical fibres are made from materials like silica and plastic, they are not affected by external electromagnetic interference, which unfortunately is an issue with metal wires. However, optical fibres are easily damaged in comparison with metal wires. Since optical fibres have very small diameters and because they can efficiently transmit light, they can be used to carry light into and images out of very narrow spaces. In 1953, British physicists Harold Hopkins and Narinder Singh Kapany were successful at making fibre bundles that could transmit an image. This bundle consisted of over 10,000 individual fibres and was about 75 cm in length. Narinder Singh Kapany, who is now considered the father of fibre optics, would then go on to coin the term fibre optics in 1960 and publish the first book about it.

Construction and Working of Optical Fibres

Optical fibres are made from two different types of materials that have different values of refraction index. The core of the optical fibre has a high refractive index, and this is where the light is transmitted through to the destination, and this is done by total internal reflection. The core is surrounded by an outer layer called cladding, which has a lower refractive index value. Light rays can travel very long distances and can be used to transmit data. But since light rays tend to travel in straight lines, they cannot be employed in data transmission unless this setback is overcome. Optical fibres, using the phenomenon of total internal reflection, keep the light rays contained between the cores. The highly reflective surface of the core lets the light rays continuously bounce between its walls with negligible loss and transmits the data to the destination. The components of a typical fibre optics cable are given below.

  • Transmitter – The transmitter is the source that produces the light signals and encodes them, making it suitable for transmission.
  • The core of the optical fibre – The core is the middle, essential part of an optical fibre, where the light signals are carried through to the destination.
  • Cladding of the optical fibre – Cladding is the protective covering found around the core of the optical fibre to protect it against wear and tear and just damages in general.
  • Optical receiver – The optical receiver is found at the destination of the optical fibre, and this is the device that decodes the transmitted light signal and makes it usable for the intended purpose.
  • Optical regenerator – The optical regenerator is an essential instrument necessary in the case of long-distance data transmission. As the name suggests, optical regenerators help in making up for any losses incurred during data transmission.

Uses of Optical Fibres

Owing to their superior advantages, optical fibres are used in a variety of different fields.

  • Internet: Since optical fibres allow for the transmission of huge amounts of data at very high speeds, they are used in internet cables. As opposed to other alternatives, optical fibres are lighter, more flexible, and carry more data.
  • Computer networking: The quality of communication between computers in the same building or computers across different regions is greatly improved with the use of optical fibres.
  • Medical field: Optical fibres are extensively used in non-intrusive surgical methods called endoscopy. Here, optical fibres are used to shine a light on the interior part of the organ that needs to be operated on. This is helpful because it greatly reduces the need for many incisions to be made. Optical fibres are also used in dentistry applications.
  • Automotive industry: Optical fibres are used in vehicles for the communication between the different parts of the vehicle and the ECU (Electronically Controlled Unit), which is the brain in modern vehicles. This increases the safety factor involved because it helps in the more effective deployment of airbags, traction control systems etc.
  • Telephone: Irrespective of the distance between the caller and receiver, be it within the same city or across the world, the quality of the audio transmission has improved thanks to the use of optical fibres significantly.
  • Military: In the field of the military, safety and security are of utmost importance. Optical fibres are ideal in this situation.

 

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