Optical fiber is a type of transparent fiber that is capable of transporting light at high speed. As a rule of thumb, light travels at about 200,000 kilometers per second through an optical fiber. Optical fibers have a pure glass or plastic core wrapped in a cladding material. The following are common applications for optical fiber.
CommunicationTransmitting data as light pulses over optical fiber. This allows for high bandwidth, long distance transmissions that are immune to electromagnetic interference. Fiber is generally superior to electrical cabling for communications. As such, telecom networks began the process of upgrading networks with optical fiber as early as the 1970s. Internet infrastructure and telecom networks are now generally based on fiber optics with the exception being the last mile. Many homes and businesses still lack a fiber-based connection to the internet.
Fiber ChannelHigh speed data transmission between devices such as a server and a data storage device.
FiberscopeScopes and cameras that capture images using a optical fiber cable. This has applications for medicine and maintenance of machines as it allows a camera to travel to remote and narrow locations. Examples of medical examinations that may use a fiberscope include arthroscopy (joints), bronchoscopy (lungs), colonoscopy (colon), cystoscopy (bladder), enteroscopy (small intestine), hysteroscopy (uterus), laparoscopy (abdomen) and laryngoscopy (voice box).
Power TransmissionOptical fiber can be used to transmit power as light. This requires conversion of light to power using a solar cell and isn't particularly efficient. Nevertheless, it is used to transport power in systems that are impacted by electromagnetic interference such as an MRI machine.Optical fibers are used in sensors to measure temperature and pressure. These are particularly useful for measuring remote places with a thin instrument or places that have electromagnetic fields that throw off other types of sensor. For example, optical sensors are used to measure the temperature of electrical transformers. Optical fibers are also used in sensors for detecting chemicals and biological elements.
LasersOptical fiber is used to construct lasers for welding and cutting applications.
AircraftOptical fiber is used in light-weight designs as an alternative to heavy copper cables. For example, optical fiber is commonly used in aircraft to reduce weight.
LightingOptical fiber is commonly used as a lighting element for lamps, portable lights, automotive headlamps, LCD backlights, instrument displays and projection lighting. As lights, optical fibers are compact, energy efficient, precise and can be used to mix various colors of light.
Buildings can be designed to capture outdoor light and transport it deep into their interior as a type of passive lighting system. Light transport has other applications in areas such as solar energy concentration.Optical fiber can be used to make concrete translucent.
ArtOptical fiber lights are commonly used to create art, night architecture and decorative items.
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