Optical fiber: glass and plastic revolutionize data transmission

Optical fiber is inexorably conquering the telecommunications sector . The reasons behind its incredible success are many. There are many reasons for this technology: among them, the development of electronic devices, especially personal ones; the digitization of businesses and the public administration, which has undergone a strong acceleration due to the ongoing health emergency; finally, the continuous demand for data connection to the internet.

There are currently no viable alternatives to this new technology. Telecommunications experts also foresee that the detectable speed difference between the optical fiber and the other data transmission means will become more and more marked. Optical fiber is a way of transmitting data from one point to another by sending pulses of infrared light. In general, fiber is always preferable to electrical cables or radio frequency transmissions when high bandwidth is required, when long connection distances need to be reached, or to ensure immunity from electromagnetic interference.

How is the optical fiber made

Optical fiber is a cable made up of very thin transparent fiberglass filaments , wrapped in a sheath of insulating material. The fiber optic cable has the appearance of a bundle of filaments grouped into two bundles: the innermost is transparent and the outermost is more opaque. The opaque part is able to reflect light. The single filament is made up of two concentric layers of transparent and very pure material.

The innermost part, in technical language is called core or nucleus, while the outermost part acts as a cover and is called cladding . The optical fiber is sheathed in the jacket , which has the dual function of protecting the fiber from contact with the outside and resisting physical stress and corrosion. Finally, another outer sheath in turn wraps the cable to protect the fibers from heat and humidity.

The number of optical fibers that make up a cable is variable, but no more than seven. It is not uncommon to find, together with these filaments, more resistant wires twisted together, which do not transmit data but perform the function of strengthening the cable. One of the peculiarities of the optical fiber, in fact, is that it is very fragile; it doesn't take much to cause it to break and the consequent loss of information.

What are its advantages?

Optical fiber offers numerous benefits and has become an indispensable technology for effective communications nowadays. In detail, the advantages related to its use are:

  • low attenuation: this feature allows connections to be made over long distances, without having to introduce signal regeneration systems;
  • high transmission capacity: each fiber can carry many independent channels, which each use a different wavelength of light, through the wavelength division multiplexing technique;
  • very low weight and dimensions ;
  • immunity to electromagnetic interference: optical fibers are made with glass, which is known to be a dielectric material. As a result, they are not subject to electromagnetic couplings, which can cause disturbances in the signal transmitted between adjacent circuits or in proximity to electrical conductors. We can avoid problems of cross talk or cross talk;
  • very low error rate: considering the ratio between bits not received correctly and those transmitted, it can be seen that that relating to copper conductors is much higher;
  • low cost of raw material: to make a fiber optic cable you need silicon dioxide and plastic, which are easily procured at very low costs.
Optical fiber offers several benefits that make it the preferred transmission technology.
Optical fiber offers several benefits that make it the preferred transmission technology.

We also add that the fiber optic cable is more durable and reliable than its copper predecessor , despite the higher costs related to laying and maintenance. In conclusion, fiber optic systems are more efficient and effective than data transmission systems, made with traditional conductive materials.

Article by Annalaura Antonelli

The article Optical fiber: glass and plastic revolutionize data transmission comes from Tech CuE | Close-up Engineering .