What Is Fiber Optics and How Does It Work?

network cabling career

Most of us understand that information travels in different ways. When we use our cell phones, for example, our phones send and receive information wirelessly using invisible radio waves. When we make a call through the landline, our voices are transmitted through a series of wire cables.

Fiber optics works a little differently. Originally developed for endoscopes in the 1950’s, fiber optics is the transmission of information coded in a beam of light, through a glass or plastic pipe. Engineers discovered a way to use this technology to transmit phone calls at the speed of light (300,000km per second), and this speed is one of the main reasons that fiber optics is such a hot buzzword today.

Read on to discover more about fiber optic technology, and its applications in today’s world.

Fiber Optic Network Cabling Technology

A fiber optic cable is made up of 100 or more strands of glass or plastic called optical fibers, each one about one tenth as thick as a human hair. The purpose of fiber optic cables is to carry information between two points. If you’re interested in a network cabling career, you’ll know that this technology is being used increasingly in the TV, internet and telecommunications fields.

How Fiber Optics Works

In a fiber optic cable, information in the form of light travels by repeatedly bouncing off the glass cable walls. The light is able to stay within the cable due to its structure, which is divided into two separate parts.

The center of the cable, called the core, is the section that light travels through. The core is encased in another layer of glass called the cladding, which is made from yet another type of glass or plastic keeping the light signals inside the core. If you’re considering network cabling training and are interested in the technicalities, the cladding has a lower refractive index than the core, which causes total internal reflection that keeps signals bouncing down the core.

From Network Cabling to the Medical Office

The most basic type of fiber optic cable falls into a category called single-mode. This type of cable has a very thin core that is about 5-10 microns (millionths of a meter) in diameter. As you may learn in network cabling courses, cable TV, internet and telephone signals using fiber optic technology typically use single-mode fibers wrapped into a huge bundle.

Multi-mode is another type of fiber optic cable. Each optical fiber in a multi-mode cable is about 10 times the size of those used in single-mode cables. Although used in many applications, multi-mode cabling is typically used to link computer networks together.

A much thicker type of cable is used in a gastroscope. A gastroscope (a type of endoscope) is used by doctors to see down someone’s throat into their digestive tract to check for illness in the stomach. A gastroscope is a thick fiber optic cable consisting of many optical fibers. There’s even a thicker version of the tool, called a fiberscope which is used to examine inaccessible areas of aircraft engines.

What are some other applications of fiber optic cables in today’s world?

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