What is Fiber Optic Cable?

Fiber Optics Cable

A fiber optic cable is an advanced type of network cable (used to connect and transfer data between computers), offering an improved form of conductor compared to more traditional cables in bandwidth and data carrying. Optical fiber cabling involves pulses of light being sent downpipes, often made from glass or clear plastic. These pipes are minuscule, averaging the width of a single strand of hair, and you can usually fit hundreds within one cable. These cables are insulated with cladding (also made from glass or plastic, but at a thicker density compared to the smaller pipes. Further insulation of rubber casing is then used to encase the whole structure. This is known as a buffer jacket to protect the interior fibers of the cable as a whole. Below we look at what fiber optic cables are used for and how they work.

What Are Fiber Optic Cables Used for?

The modern usage of fiber optic cables usually centers around high-end internet connections and applications within the domestic space, such as TV or phone appliances. Other common uses are interior decorations such as lights and Christmas trees and within the office and workspaces. The advantage of fiber optic cables lies in their space-saving compaction – they are far less bulky than their competitor conductors. They are widely used in professional fields, including sensory, medical, lighting, and automobile apparatus.

How Do Fiber Optic Cables Work?

The glass strands within the cable are essential in the function of fiber optic cables, but several components must be considered for the cable to be useful for data transfer. A source of light is crucial to send information through the strands within the cable. These form pulses across the glass or plastic tubing. These sources manifest as lasers or an LED source, which bounces these light pulses over the cable. Also, the cladding is another vital feature, as it will have a different density (and thus refractory index for the light pulses), which means the light cannot pass through the thinner fibers.

The refractive differences between the fiber and the cladding allow the pulses of light to move over the cable’s length. Repeaters are features of a fiber optic cable that convert the light vibrations into electrical signals (and back to light pulses) during the transmission. This happens at frequent intervals throughout longer cables to keep the signal strength from weakening. The signal travels at the speed of light for about two-thirds of its journey. It can be interpreted into data by the receiving equipment, converting the light communication signals into an output.

What Are Fiber Optic Cables Made From?

Fiber optic cables are constructed from various materials, although the inner strands are usually made from glass or plastic. Plastic optical fibers are less expensive and more flexible, making them more comfortable materials to obtain and work with. They are lighter and have excellent durability when it comes to shock resistance and tension. These are generally used for applications with lower speed and shorter distance. Glass fiber optics are more delicate in terms of flexibility; however, they are much more durable when it comes to chemical, moisture, and temperature resistance. Thus, when cables are used over long distances and are buried or underwater, glass is ideal.

What Are the Advantages of Fiber Optic Cables?

Fiber optic cables have properties that indicate a clear superiority over other, more traditional conductors (such as metal cables). These features include speed, as fiber optic cables usually outperform even the highest-grade copper-type cables, as older copper cables (used originally for transmitting voice signals which don’t require mass data transfer and thus large bandwidth) offer relatively limited bandwidth in comparison. Fiber optics also offer a lower risk of interference as they are structured with significantly more protection than traditional metal cables, given that they do not carry an electrical signal. This reduces signal degradation.

Optical fiber is also far safer compared to copper cable, as the materials are usually thinner, lighter and yet more robust and tough than metal. Fiber optics can thus withstand a more significant force without breaking across the same length of metal cabling. Fiber optics are less influenced by weather conditions, moisture, or extremes in the heat than metal. Due to the material of optical fibers, they do not pose a fire hazard even when defective. Finally, optical fibers can cover much larger distances than metal cables due to their low signal loss rate.

Optical fiber cabling has a vast range of functions, and it is used within a variety of fields to transfer data and communicate information across large and short distances. The cables’ material influences their properties, and thus glass and plastic cables are each suitable for different purposes.

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