Daniel Colladon first described this "light fountain" or "light pipe" in an 1842 article entitled On the reflections of a ray of light inside a parabolic liquid stream. This particular illustration comes from a later article by Colladon, in 1884.
Fiber optics, though used extensively in the modern world, is a fairly simple and old technology. Guiding of light by refraction, the principle that makes fiber optics possible, was first demonstrated by Daniel Colladon and Jacques Babinet in Paris in the early 1840s. John Tyndallincluded a demonstration of it in his public lectures in London a dozen years later. Tyndall also wrote about the property of total internal reflection in an introductory book about the nature of light in 1870: "When the light passes from air into water, the refracted ray is bent towards theperpendicular... When the ray passes from water to air it is bent from the perpendicular... If the angle which the ray in water encloses with the perpendicular to the surface be greater than 48 degrees, the ray will not quit the water at all: it will be totally reflected at the surface.... The angle which marks the limit where total reflection begins is called the limiting angle of the medium. For water this angle is 48°27', for flint glass it is 38°41', while for diamond it is 23°42'."
Practical applications, such as close internal illumination during dentistry, appeared early in the twentieth century. Image transmission through tubes was demonstrated independently by the radio experimenter Clarence Hansell and the television pioneer John Logie Baird in the 1920s. The principle was first used for internal medical examinations by Heinrich Lamm in the following decade. In 1952, physicist Narinder Singh Kapany conducted experiments that led to the invention of optical fiber. Modern optical fibers, where the glass fiber is coated with a transparent cladding to offer a more suitable refractive index, appeared later in the decade. Development then focused on fiber bundles for image transmission. The first fiber optic semi-flexiblegastroscope was patented by Basil Hirschowitz, C. Wilbur Peters, and Lawrence E. Curtiss, researchers at the University of Michigan, in 1956. In the process of developing the gastroscope, Curtiss produced the first glass-clad fibers; previous optical fibers had relied on air or impractical oils and waxes as the low-index cladding material. A variety of other image transmission applications soon followed.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, light was guided through bent glass rods to illuminate body cavities. Alexander Graham Bell invented a 'Photophone' to transmit voice signals over an optical beam.
Jun-ichi Nishizawa, a Japanese scientist at Tohoku University, also proposed the use of optical fibers for communications in 1963, as stated in his book published in 2004 in India. Nishizawa invented other technologies which contributed to the development of optical fiber communications, such as the graded-index optical fiber as a channel for transmitting light from semiconductor lasers. Charles K. Kaoand George A. Hockham of the British company Standard Telephones and Cables (STC) were the first to promote the idea that theattenuation in optical fibers could be reduced below 20 decibels per kilometer (dB/km), allowing fibers to be a practical medium for communication. They proposed that the attenuation in fibers available at the time was caused by impurities, which could be removed, rather than fundamental physical effects such as scattering. They correctly and systematically theorized the light-loss properties for optical fiber, and pointed out the right material to manufacture such fibers — silica glass with high purity. This discovery led to Kao being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009.
NASA used fiber optics in the television cameras sent to the moon. At the time such use in the cameras was 'classified confidential' and only those with the right security clearance or those accompanied by someone with the right security clearance were permitted to handle the cameras.
The crucial attenuation limit of 20 dB/km was first achieved in 1970, by researchers Robert D. Maurer, Donald Keck, Peter C. Schultz, and Frank Zimar working for American glass maker Corning Glass Works, now Corning Incorporated. They demonstrated a fiber with 17 dB/km attenuation by doping silica glass with titanium. A few years later they produced a fiber with only 4 dB/km attenuation using germanium dioxide as the core dopant. Such low attenuation ushered in optical fiber telecommunication. In 1981, General Electric produced fusedquartz ingots that could be drawn into fiber optic strands 25 miles (40 km) long.
Attenuation in modern optical cables is far less than in electrical copper cables, leading to long-haul fiber connections with repeater distances of 70–150 kilometers (43–93 mi). The erbium-doped fiber amplifier, which reduced the cost of long-distance fiber systems by reducing or eliminating optical-electrical-optical repeaters, was co-developed by teams led by David N. Payne of the University of Southampton and Emmanuel Desurvire at Bell Labs in 1986. The more robust optical fiber commonly used today utilizes glass for both core and sheath and is therefore less prone to aging processes. It was invented by Gerhard Bernsee of Schott Glass in Germany in 1973.
In 1991, the emerging field of photonic crystals led to the development of photonic-crystal fiber which guides light by diffraction from a periodic structure, rather than by total internal reflection. The first photonic crystal fibers became commercially available in 2000. Photonic crystal fibers can carry higher power than conventional fibers and their wavelength-dependent properties can be manipulated to improve performance.
Optical fiber communication
Main article: Fiber-optic communication
Optical fiber can be used as a medium for telecommunication and networking because it is flexible and can be bundled as cables. It is especially advantageous for long-distance communications, because light propagates through the fiber with little attenuation compared to electrical cables. This allows long distances to be spanned with few repeaters. Additionally, the per-channel light signals propagating in the fiber have been modulated at rates as high as 111 gigabits per second by NTT, although 10 or 40 Gbit/s is typical in deployed systems. Each fiber can carry many independent channels, each using a different wavelength of light (wavelength-division multiplexing(WDM)). The net data rate (data rate without overhead bytes) per fiber is the per-channel data rate reduced by the FEC overhead, multiplied by the number of channels (usually up to eighty in commercial dense WDM systems as of 2008). The current laboratory fiber optic data rate record, held by Bell Labs in Villarceaux, France, is multiplexing 155 channels, each carrying 100 Gbit/s over a 7000 km fiber. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation have also managed 69.1 Tbit/s over a single 240 km fiber (multiplexing 432 channels, equating to 171 Gbit/s per channel). Bell Labs also broke a 100 Petabit per second kilometer barrier (15.5 Tbit/s over a single 7000 km fiber).
For short distance applications, such as creating a network within an office building, fiber-optic cabling can be used to save space in cable ducts. This is because a single fiber can often carry much more data than many electrical cables, such as 4 pair Cat-5 Ethernet cabling.[vague] Fiber is also immune to electrical interference; there is no cross-talk between signals in different cables and no pickup of environmental noise. Non-armored fiber cables do not conduct electricity, which makes fiber a good solution for protecting communications equipment located in high voltage environments such as power generation facilities, or metal communication structures prone to lightningstrikes. They can also be used in environments where explosive fumes are present, without danger of ignition. Wiretapping is more difficult compared to electrical connections, and there are concentric dual core fibers that are said to be tap-proof.
Fiber optic sensors
Main article: Fiber optic sensor
Fibers have many uses in remote sensing. In some applications, the sensor is itself an optical fiber. In other cases, fiber is used to connect a non-fiberoptic sensor to a measurement system. Depending on the application, fiber may be used because of its small size, or the fact that no electrical power is needed at the remote location, or because many sensors can be multiplexed along the length of a fiber by using different wavelengths of light for each sensor, or by sensing the time delay as light passes along the fiber through each sensor. Time delay can be determined using a device such as an optical time-domain reflectometer.
Optical fibers can be used as sensors to measure strain, temperature, pressure and other quantities by modifying a fiber so that the quantity to be measured modulates the intensity, phase, polarization, wavelength or transit time of light in the fiber. Sensors that vary the intensity of light are the simplest, since only a simple source and detector are required. A particularly useful feature of such fiber optic sensors is that they can, if required, provide distributed sensing over distances of up to one meter.
Extrinsic fiber optic sensors use an optical fiber cable, normally a multi-mode one, to transmit modulated light from either a non-fiber optical sensor, or an electronic sensor connected to an optical transmitter. A major benefit of extrinsic sensors is their ability to reach places which are otherwise inaccessible. An example is the measurement of temperature inside aircraft jet engines by using a fiber to transmit radiationinto a radiation pyrometer located outside the engine. Extrinsic sensors can also be used in the same way to measure the internal temperature of electrical transformers, where the extreme electromagnetic fields present make other measurement techniques impossible. Extrinsic sensors are used to measure vibration, rotation, displacement, velocity, acceleration, torque, and twisting. A solid state version of the gyroscope using the interference of light has been developed. The fiber optic gyroscope (FOG) has no moving parts and exploits theSagnac effect to detect mechanical rotation.
A common use for fiber optic sensors are in advanced intrusion detection security systems, where the light is transmitted along the fiber optic sensor cable, which is placed on a fence, pipeline or communication cabling, and the returned signal is monitored and analysed for disturbances. This return signal is digitally processed to identify if there is a disturbance, and if an intrusion has occurred an alarm is triggered by the fiber optic security system.