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What is Optic Fibre?

The future has arrived and its optic fibre

So, we have all been there, you know, being asked a question that you really don’t know the answer too. It is for this embarrassing reason that I have decided to delve into the world of optic fibre and what it means for the times that we live in.

From the days of dial-up internet to ADSL and beyond, the way we connect to this vast landscape of knowledge and information has evolved tremendously. The 21st century has seen the evolution of optic fibre go from being used for telecommunications to computer networking because it is versatile. But, what exactly is optic fibre and how does it work?

Understanding optic fibre

Optical fibre is a flexible, transparent fibre made by drawing glass (silica) or plastic to a diameter slightly thicker than that of a human hair. The optical fibres are then used as a means to transfer light across both ends of the fibre and finds wide usage as a method of transmitting information from one place to another by directing pulses of light from one end to another. This then permits transmissions over longer distances and at higher bandwidths than electrical cables. Fibre, unlike metal wires, allows the signal to travel along them with less loss. Fibres are also immune to electromagnetic interference, an unduly problem with metal wires. In a nutshell, optic fibre sends information coded in a beam of light down a glass or plastic pipe.

Now that we have an understanding of what optic fibre is, let’s look at how it works.

How does optic fibre work?

Light moves down the fibre optic cable by ricocheting repeatedly off the walls. Each tiny particle of light bounces down the pipe at a shallow angle (less than 42 degrees) causing the light to reflect back in, this causes the glass to act as a mirror and reflect the light beams off of another. This phenomenon is called ‘Total Internal Reflection’ and is one of the things that keeps the light from leaking out, trapping it inside the glass. The structuring of the cable is made up of two separate parts and this also causes the light to stay within the confines of the glass. The middle part of the cable is called ‘the core’ this is where the light travels through. The cladding is another layer of glass wrapped around the outside of the core. The claddings job is to keep the light signals inside the core.

Well, there you have it. Optic fibre has indeed revolutionised the way we communicate. Optic fibre has successfully managed to turn mobile phones into portable computers that not only allow us to make voice calls but also to take and share pictures, stream videos and share information at incredible speeds. The future has arrived and it is optic fibre that has ushered it in!