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   Fibre optic cables
Fibre optic cables
Originated from :Datolink Ltd    Published time:1/31/2013

Fibre optic cables

An optical fiber is a cylindrical dielectric waveguide that transmits light along its axis, by the process of total internal reflection. The fiber consists of a core surrounded by a cladding layer. To confine the optical signal in the core, the refractive index of the core must be greater than that of the cladding. The boundary between the core and cladding may either be abrupt, in step-index fiber, or gradual, in graded-index fiber.

Figure 4.15. Multi-mode optical fiber

Fiber with large (greater than 10 μm) core diameter may be analyzed by geometric optics. Such fiber is called multimode fiber. In a step-index multimode fiber, rays of light are guided along the fiber core by total internal reflection. Rays that meet the core-cladding boundary at a high angle (measured relative to a line normal to the boundary), greater than the critical angle for this boundary, are completely reflected. The critical angle (minimum angle for total internal reflection) is determined by the difference in index of refraction between the core and cladding materials. Rays that meet the boundary at a low angle are refracted from the core into the cladding, and do not convey light and hence information along the fiber. The critical angle determines the acceptance angle of the fiber, often reported as a numerical aperture. A high numerical aperture allows light to propagate down the fiber in rays both close to the axis and at various angles, allowing efficient coupling of light into the fiber. However, this high numerical aperture increases the amount of dispersion as rays at different angles have different path lengths and therefore take different times to traverse the fiber. A low numerical aperture may therefore be desirable.

In graded-index fiber, the index of refraction in the core decreases continuously between the axis and the cladding. This causes light rays to bend smoothly as they approach the cladding, rather than reflecting abruptly from the core-cladding boundary. The resulting curved paths reduce multi-path dispersion because high angle rays pass more through the lower-index periphery of the core, rather than the high-index center. The index profile is chosen to minimize the difference in axial propagation speeds of the various rays in the fiber. This ideal index profile is very close to a parabolic relationship between the index and the distance from the axis.

Fiber with a core diameter less than about ten times the wavelength of the propagating light cannot be modeled using geometric optics. Instead, it must be analyzed as an electromagnetic structure, by solution of Maxwell´s equations as reduced to the electromagnetic wave equation. As an optical waveguide, the fiber supports one or more confined transverse modes by which light can propagate along the fiber. Fiber supporting only one mode is called single-mode or mono-mode fiber.

The most common type of single-mode fiber has a core diameter of 8 to 10 μm and is designed for use in the near infrared. Multi-mode fiber, by comparison, is manufactured with core diameters as small as 50 microns and as large as hundreds of microns.

In practical fibers, the cladding is usually coated with a tough resin buffer layer, which may be further surrounded by a jacket layer, usually plastic. These layers add strength to the fiber but do not contribute to its optical wave guide properties. For indoor applications, the jacketed fiber is generally enclosed, with a bundle of flexible fibrous polymer strength members in a lightweight plastic cover to form a simple cable. Each end of the cable may be terminated with a specialized optical fiber connector to allow it to be easily connected and disconnected from transmitting and receiving equipment.

For use in more strenuous environments, a much more robust cable construction is required. In loose-tube construction the fiber is laid helically into semi-rigid tubes, allowing the cable to stretch without stretching the fiber itself. This protects the fiber from tension during laying and due to temperature changes. Alternatively the fiber may be embedded in a heavy polymer jacket, commonly called "tight buffer" construction. These fiber units are commonly bundled with additional steel strength members, again with a helical twist to allow for stretching.

Another concern in cabling is to protect the fiber from contamination by water, because its component hydrogen (hydronium) and hydroxyl ions can diffuse into the fiber, reducing the fiber´s strength and increasing the optical attenuation. Water is kept out of the cable by use of solid barriers such as copper tubes, water-repellant jelly, or more recently water absorbing powder, surrounding the fiber.

Finally, the cable may be armored to protect it from environmental hazards, such as construction work or gnawing animals.

Modern cables come in a wide variety of sheathings and armor, designed for applications such as direct burial in trenches, dual use as power lines, installation in conduit, lashing to aerial telephone poles, submarine installation, or insertion in paved streets.

Optical fibers are connected to terminal equipment by optical fiber connectors. These connectors are usually of a standard type such as FC, SC, ST, LC, or MTRJ.


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