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Optical fibres are those very fine long glass fibres which allow light signals to travel through. They are
made of silica or silicon dioxide. To produce the fibres, molted solution of silica or silicon dioxide with other
materials such as arsenic, qurtz etc., at 1900 degree Celsius are drawn into a cylindrical shape which
have an inner diameter in the range of 10 to 50 micrometre (1 micrometre is one millionth of a metre) and
outer diameter of 100-120 micrometre. Thus its geometry is that of a long cylinder but looks like a solid
glass wire to unaided eyes.
Optical fibre consists of an inner cylinder of glass, called the core surrounded by a cylindrical shell of
glass or plastic of lower refractive index called cladding. Fibres may be classified in terms of refractive
Index profile of core and whether a single mode or many modes are propagating in it. If the core has
uniform refractive Index, it is called a step index fibre and if the core has a non-uniform refractive index,
gradually decreasing from the centre towards the outer region, it is called a graded index fibre.
When light enters one end of the fibre under right conditions most of the light will propagate or move
down the length of fibre and exit from the far end while a small part of light will be absorbed or scattered
by the cladding. Light enters one end of the fibre at a slight angle to the axis. As it encounters a surface
with a different refractive index it suffers total internal reflection. For total internal reflection to occur at the
fibre walls, two conditions must be met. The first is that the core must have a slightly higher refractive
index than the cladding. Second, light must have an angle of incidence greater then the critical angle. The
light so reflected bounces off the walls (repeated total internal reflections) and proceeds in a zig-zag path.
Now a days these fibres are playing a very important role in wire (line) communication systems. Such
optical fibers offer some important advantages over wires. Light travels faster in glass than electric signals
in the conventional metallic wires. Further on using monochromatic light (lasers) the signal distortion is
low. Optical fibres have a high bandwidth (data carrying capacity) of the order of GHz. Consequently, they
carry 100 million times more information and 100 times faster than telephone lines.
These optical fibres are very light in weight, easily twistable and have a low attenuation (powerloss and
hence information loss) i.e. 0.5 decibels/kilometre (dB/km) which is approximate 10 times less than
telephone cables. Since it is made up of cylindrical silica which is non conductive and non radiative, there
is no possibilities of cross talk. Fibers are resistive to high temperature as the melting point of silica is very
high i.e 1900 degree Celsius. Besides, the transmitted signals are optical and problems associated with
sparking at the ends of cable are not encountered in this case.
Single mode fibres have bandwidth of more than 3GHz and mostly are use in submarine cable network.
These fibres are less expensive. Graded index fibres have bandwidth of 200 MHz to 3 GHz and are used
in telephone trunk. These are most expensive. Step index fibre has a bandwidth of less then 200 MHz
and is mostly used in data link for computer network. These fibres are least expensive.
As mentioned above the following attractive features of optical fibres have changed the shape of
communication systems:

Low signal loss and high Bandwidth.

Small size, and banding radius
Non-conductive, non-radiative, non-inductive
Light weight

In telecommunication systems, information, which can be either in the analog or digital form reaches the
transmitter through a coder. The coder converts information into a sequence of pulses (bits). The
transmitter is usually a semiconductor laser or LED which is modulated by an information bearing signal

and converts electrical signals into light, usually in the near infrared (0.6 to 1.6 micrometre) region of
electromagnetic spectrum. After passing through the fibre, this light reaches the receiver that converts
optical signal into the information bearing signal. This electrical signal after demodulation in decoder
produces the audio signal.
The various advantages of optical fibres over co-axial cables have led to their extensive use in high-speed
communications. These fibres were introduced in the 1970s when global communication needs were
increasing at a steady rate necessitating better and faster communication systems.
Optical fibres have also become indispensable in the medical field where they are used as viewing
systems to see regions well within the body. Small bundles of fibres, not much larger than a hypodermic
needle can easily be inserted into the spot of interest. This technique has led to key hole surgery which
eliminates major incisions. Once a device of this potential is available, one can think of very many