Optical Fibres Saihaj Brar

What is it?

First used in the 1950's by surgeons to see inside our bodies until the 1960's when engineers found a way they could use this technology for things such as telephones. Optic fibers are wires are used everywhere in order to send and receive information all over the world. It is one of the many ways to send information and is used in most if not every technological device that doesn’t use radio waves everywhere. This technology allows for you to receive something like an e-mail or a telephone call within a fraction of a second. Modern day optical fibers can carry information up to 100 km by itself.

How Does it Work?

Diagram of how light travels through.

The inside of the wire is made up of a glass/plastic fiber core. Each strand is less than 1/10 of a human hair in thickness which allows for many to be packed together into a single fiber-optic cable whilst taking up a minimal amount of space which can transfer a few million phone calls alone. Optical fibers transfer information by first coding it into a beam of light particles (photons) and sending it down an optical fiber wire. This light refracts along the core of the wire by colliding off of the outer layer known as the cladding that is made up of a different type of glass that has a lower refractive index which keeps all of the light inside without leaking it out.

Matter and Energy

Light is the energy that is used in this technology. Light must first be shone into the optical fibers and when inside it will bounce around inside due to the difference in the refractive index the types of glasses have. The light does not travel the speed of light inside but instead travel 30% slower because it is not travelling through air but instead glass fibers which is a medium.


Fiber optic cables have a good effect upon the economy. Firstly fiber optics have a better cost effectiveness in comparison to its rival, the copper wire. At a first glance the copper wire has a cheaper cost and was the traditional choice for transferring information but it is much less effective in comparison to fiber optic wires. I think it is also worth mentioning that costs are dropping drastically for fiber optics at the rate of 60% a year so even though it's more expensive now it will be cheaper in the future than copper wires. Even though it is more expensive you gain a larger advantage over copper wire. First off fiber optics have a higher bandwidth, this allows the wire to carry far more data than any other wire of the same thickness/diameter. You're able to download and upload at a faster rate, downloads on copper wire internet may take 22 minutes whilst it could take as long as 8 seconds on fiber optic internet. Fiber optic cables are able to take about 200 pounds of pressure making it a sturdier option in comparison to copper wires 25 pounds. Copper cables aren’t as reliable as factors such as temperature and moisture could both wear the cable down or cause a loss of connection, this would then force you to buy more cables to replace which would then make the total cost a lot more than the one time purchase of the better fiber optic cables. Lastly it does not lose signal easily, the maximum distance for copper wire is 100 meters while the distance for fiber optic wire is 2000 meters. This technology has plenty of practical uses which helps the economy by reducing the costs of things in other departments. It was first used medically by surgeons about 50 years ago with a tool named a gastroscope which allows surgeons to look into our body without really cutting into it. Nowadays gastroscopes aren’t the only medical tool that uses optical fibres, a tool called a “lab on a fiber” is another tool that is able to measure temperature, blood pressure, medicines in their blood and sees if their body is working right. Fibre optics are also used in the military with things such as radar bases since they do not use electricity which makes it hard to track. Military vehicles such as helicopters and jets are switching to fiber optics due to the cost effectiveness and the weight reduction. Which would make the vehicles more fuel efficient.


Optical fibers also have a decent effect upon the way we communicate around the world. As mentioned before, communications is one of main things it is used for. Things such as phone calls and emails are transferred over an optical fiber cable. Nowadays the internet is a very important component in each and everyone's lives. From reading news to playing video games there are thousands of ways we as human beings connect over it. The invention of optical fibers has further strengthened this bond by making the internet faster and by giving it the ability to connect people who otherwise may be in countries on the other side of the world. Data security is something else optical fibers excel in. In the modern era we do a lot online as spoken about before, things such as credit card information and passwords to accounts are things that are extremely valuable. With optical fiber there are no radiated magnetic fields that surround the outside the cable but instead are inside. This makes it extremely hard to tap into the signal that is being transmitted that could contain your personal information. Even if someone is physically tapping the cable it makes it extremely hard for the person to do it without being caught, therefor optical fiber cables are the most secure way we can do things online.


The environmental effects of fiber optics are both good and bad. First off there is no risk of wires or objects near wires to catch fire as no electricity is flowing through them because it is just pulses of light. This is great for the environment where the wires are put especially if they are run near certain power plants or nuclear plants as an event of an explosion would destroy the area around it. Fiber optic cables are invulnerable to being interfered with. This means that it can be run in electrically noise places as it will not mess with the signals, this means that it doesn’t always need to be placed outside of cities where there is most wildlife which is good for them as installing these cables may disturb and scare off some of the animals and ruin their homes. Some negative events may take place if they were mostly placed in the wild. Animals such as beavers or rodents may start eating the wiring material and if it's placed underwater sharks may bite the wires whole.

Cited Sources

  • Woodford, Chris. "How Does Fiber Optics Work?" Explain That Stuff. 06 Aug. 2016. http://www.explainthatstuff.com/fiberoptics.html
  • Lieber, Ed. "Fiber, Copper, or Wireless: Which Connection Is Best for Your Company?" Small Business Trends. 04 Aug. 2015. https://smallbiztrends.com/2015/08/fiber-optic-copper-wireless-internet-transmission-methods.html
  • "5 Reasons Why IT Professionals Choose Fiber Optic Cables Instead of Copper." CABLExpress. http://www.cablexpress.com/blog/5-reasons-why-it-professionals-choose-fiber-optic-cables-instead-of-copper
  • "BBC - GCSE Bitesize: Optical Fibres." BBC News. BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/aqa_pre_2011/radiation/sendingrev1.shtml
  • "How Does a Fiber Optic Cable Work?" HowStuffWorks. 15 June 2000. http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/question402.htm
  • "The Optical Society." OSA - The Optical Society - 100 Years. http://www.osa.org/en-us/about_osa/newsroom/news_releases/2016/fiber_optic_communications_turns_50
  • "7. Advantages Of Fiber Optics." Advantages of Fiber. http://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~nd/surprise_97/journal/vol4/sm27/adv.html
  • "The Advantages and Disadvantages of Fiber Optics." Hub Tech Insider. 20 Oct. 2013. https://hubtechinsider.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/the-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-fiber-optics/
  • "5 Reasons Why IT Professionals Choose Fiber Optic Cables Instead of Copper." CABLExpress. http://www.cablexpress.com/blog/5-reasons-why-it-professionals-choose-fiber-optic-cables-instead-of-copper/
  • Barber, Matt. Advantages & Disadvantages of Optical Fibres. http://services.eng.uts.edu.au/~akadi/ite/major_assignments/barber/advdisad.htm
  • "8 Advantages of Fiber-Optic Internet vs. Copper Cable." Atlantech Online. https://www.atlantech.net/blog/8-advantages-of-fiber-optic-internet-over-copper-cable
  • Dejony, Ted. "Uses of Fiber Optic Cables." Timbercon: Fiber Optic Cables. http://www.timbercon.com/uses-of-fiber-optic-cables/


Created with images by p_a_h - "Fibre optics" • p_a_h - "Fibre optics" • Rochelle, just rochelle - "mysterylight 2" • hsoj95 - "fibre fiber optics" • flakeparadigm - "Red Fibers" • brixendk - "Optical fiber" • Erik Ludwig - "Optical Fiber Cephalopod"

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