EEE 529: Features of optical

communications

Danson Njue

Basic Propagation Theory

Refractive Index

Cladding

n2

max

n1
Total Reflection

n2
Core

Basic Propagation Theory
Refractive Index
The refractive index of a medium is defined as the ratio of the velocity of light
In a vacuum to the velocity of light in the medium.

c
n = -----v

c = 3e+8 [m/s]

(Example)
n = 1 for air
n = 1.3 for water
n1 = 1. 4495 for core
n2 = 1.4444 for cladding

Reflection and Refraction

Higher Index(n1)

Lower Index(n2)

Reflection and Refraction

Higher Index(n1)

Lower Index(n2)

Example

n1=1, 1=30o
n2=1.3
Compute 2

1 x sin( x 30/180) = 1.3 x sin(2)
sin(2) = 0.5/1.3 = 0.38
2 = asin(0.38) = 0.395 [rad] = 0.395 x 180 /  = 22.6o

Critical Angle

Higher Index(n1)

Lower Index(n2)

Critical Angle

Acceptance Angle (a)
• Refers to the maximum angle to the axis of that light may enter the fibre in order to
be propagated through total internal reflection.

cladding n2
air
core
n1
n2

core

n1

a
cladding n2

Numerical Aperture (NA)

The Numerical Aperture (NA) is a measure of how much light can be collected by an optical
system such as an optical fibre or a microscope lens.
The NA is related to the acceptance angle a, which indicates the size of a cone of light that
can be accepted by the fibre.

Critical Angle: n1 . sin2 = n2

Exercise
Express the numerical aperture of a fiber (NA) using n1 and n2.

Snell's law:
n0 x sin0 = n1 x sin1

Hint: 1 + 2 = 

Critical Angle: n1 x sin2 = n2

Solution
Fiber is
in the
air

Numerical Aperture (NA)

The Numerical Aperture (NA) may also be given in terms of the relative refractive index
difference ∆ between the core and the cladding.

The relative refractive index difference is given by;

Substituting ∆ in the expression for NA yields;

Exercise
A silica optical fibre has a core refractive index of 1.5 and a cladding
refractive index of 1.47.
Determine the following:


Critical angle at the core-cladding interface
Numerical Aperture of the fibre
Acceptance angle for the fibre in the air

Features of optical fiber communications

Figure: Digital optical communication system

Classification of optical fibres
Single-mode stepIndex Fibres

StepIndex
Fibres
Multi-mode stepIndex Fibres
Optical
Fibres

GradedIndex
Fibres

Multi-mode stepIndex Fibres

Step-Index fibres
• Characterised by core of constant refractive index n1 and a cladding
of slightly lower refractive index n2.
• As such, the refractive index profile makes a step change at the corecladding as shown in the figure below;
Multi-mode
step index
fibre

Single-mode
step index
fibre

Step-Index fibres
• The refractive index profile of a step-index fibre is given by;

Single-mode vs Multi-mode step-index fibres
• Single-mode allows only one transverse electromagnetic mode and has a slightly
lower core diameter. The propagation of a single mode corresponds to a single
ray-path only through the fibre
• Multi-mode fibres allows the propagation of a finite number of guided modes
along the channel
• The number of guided modes depends on the physical parameters of the fibre
(relative refractive index difference and core radius) and the wavelength of the
transmitted light. The two are included in the normalized frequency, V of the fibre.
• The total number of guided modes in a multi-mode step-index fibre is
approximated as follows;
V² 𝑀𝑔

2

Single mode vs multi-mode
Advantages of single-mode
• Low inter-modal dispersion
(broadening of transmitted light
pulses) since only one mode is
transmitted
• Can attain high bandwidth capacities
as opposed to multi-mode fibres

Advantages of multi-mode
• Ability to use spatially incoherent
optical sources that cannot be
efficiently be coupled to single mode
fibres
• Have larger NA and core diameters
making coupling easier
• Have lower tolerance requirements
on fibre connectors

These advantages applies for lower bandwidth applications

Graded-Index fibres
• Characterised by non-constant core refractive index n1 . The core
refractive index n(r) decreases with the radial distance from a
maximum of n1 at the axis to a constant value of n2 beyond the core
radius a in the cladding.

Where Δ is the relative refractive index difference and α is the profile
parameter that gives the characteristic refractive index profile of the fibre core.
The fibre may different profiles depending on the value of α:

Value of α

Profile
1

Triangular

2

Parabolic
Step-index

Graded-Index fibres

Parabolic
profile, α=2