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The Future of Fiber Optics

by:TBT     2020-08-14
Fiber optic technology is nothing new, but new applications of this technology are likely to change the way we live and work. For several decades fiber optic technology, transmitting light via flexible fibers of very thin glass or other transparent materials, has been available. However the cost of this technology was considered too expensive for anything other than long-distance applications such as telecommunications. The significant benefits over traditional copper wiring were what made the additional cost worthwhile.
Today, higher volumes of production have created lower costs so that they are now feasible for many applications. The capacity of fiber optics have also expanded dramatically with cables, once limited to one wavelength, now capable of carrying well over one hundred wavelengths at once.
The result of these and other technological advances is higher bandwidth and the accessibility of more applications.
U-verse and FiOS systems from AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon have recently put fiber optics in the limelight. These systems are for delivery of TV and Internet respectively. AT&T's cable TV system utilizes fiber to central nodes then devolves to copper cabling to each home or business. Verizon's system uses a different strategy, bringing fiber optic cable all the way into each home or business. A similar system has been in place in Japan for some time.
Other industries are working with lasers for a wide variety of applications. The ability of lasers to provide very high power makes them a good option for many industrial needs including welding. Non-laser fiber optics are replacing copper in automobiles as a lighter weigh option for use in CD players, GPS systems, seat and climate controls and air conditioning systems, and in the field of research they have allowed the creation of super accurate clocks. These super clocks combine optical fiber with a laser to allow the measurement of time more accurately for ultra precise scientific applications.
Key to the performance of fiber optic cables is the polishing. The power of these cables is in the ability of light to move super fast along the length of the cable, however each end of the optic fiber holds the potential for slowing and defusing the light signal due to a lack of clarity. Polishing of the ends of the cable is therefore extremely important in optimizing the transfer of light.
Potential applications are almost limitless and the next 50 years is expected by many to bring about huge advances in the delivery of communication, lighting and entertainment solutions due to current, and as yet undiscovered, applications in our homes, businesses and civic institutions.
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