A fiber-optic cable is composed of many very thin strands of coated glass or plastic fibers that transmit light through the process of “cladding,” in which total internal reflection of light is achieved by using material that has a lower refractive index. Once light enters the fiber, the cladding layer inside it prevents light loss as the beam of light zigzags inside the glass core. Glass fibers can transmit messages or images by directing beams of light inside itself over very short or very long distances up to 13,000 miles (20,917 kilometers) without significant distortion. The pattern of light waves forms a code that carries a message. At the receiving end, the light beams are converted back into electric current and decoded. Uses include telecommunications medical fiber-optic viewers, such as endoscopes and fiberscopes, to see internal organs; fiber-optic message devices in aircraft and space vehicles; and fiber-optic connections in automotive lighting systems.
Fiber-optic cables have greater “bandwidth”: they can carry much more data than metal cable. Because fiber optics is based on light beams, the transmissions are more impervious to electrical noise and can also be carried greater distances before fading. The cables are thinner than metal wires. Fiber-optic cable delivers data in digital code instead of an analog signal, the delivery method of metal cables; computers are structured for digital, so there is a natural symbiosis. The main disadvantage is cost: fiber optics are much more expensive than traditional metal cable.
To understand how a fiber optic cable works, imagine an immensely long drinking straw or flexible plastic pipe. For example, imagine a pipe that is several miles long. Now imagine that the inside surface of the pipe has been coated with a perfect mirror. Now imagine that you are looking into one end of the pipe. Several miles away at the other end, a friend turns on a flashlight and shines it into the pipe. Because the interior of the pipe is a perfect mirror, the flashlight’s light will reflect off the sides of the pipe (even though the pipe may curve and twist) and you will see it at the other end. If your friend were to turn the flashlight on and off in a morse code fashion, your friend could communicate with you through the pipe. That is the essence of a fiber optic cable.
Related fiber optic cables – fiber optic patch cord, also called fiber optic patch cable, is a fiber optic cable terminated with fiber optic connectors on both ends. It has two major application areas: computer work station to outlet and fiber optic patch panels or optical cross connect distribution center. Fiber optic patch cables are for indoor applications only.