Fundamental Ideas about Optical Fiber For Engineering Physics:
An optical fiber is a cylindrical dielectric wave guide (nonconducting wave guide) that transmits light along its axis, by the process of total internal reflection. The fiber consists of a core surrounded by a cladding layer, both of which are made of dielectric materials. To confine the optical signal in the core, the refractive index of the core must be greater than that of the cladding. The boundary between the core and cladding may either be abrupt, in step-index fiber, or gradual, in graded-index fiber.
Index of Refraction:
The index of refraction (or refractive index) is a way of measuring the speed of light in a material. Light travels
fastest in a vacuum, such as in outer space. The speed of light in a vacuum is about 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles) per second. The refractive index of a medium is calculated by dividing the speed of light in a vacuum by the speed of light in that medium. The refractive index of a vacuum is therefore 1, by definition. A typical single mode fiber used for telecommunications has a cladding made of pure silica, with an index of 1.444 at 1,500 nm, and a core of doped silica with an index around 1.4475. The larger the index of refraction, the slower light travels in that medium. From this information, a simple rule of thumb is that a signal using optical fiber for communication will travel at around 200,000 kilometers per second. To put it another way, the signal will take 5 milliseconds to travel 1,000 kilometers in fiber. Thus a phone call carried by fiber between Sydney and New York, a 16,000-kilometer distance, means that there is a minimum delay of 80 milliseconds between when one caller speaks and the other hears.
Total Internal Reflection:
When light traveling in an optically dense medium hits a boundary at a steep angle (larger than the critical angle for
the boundary), the light is completely reflected. This is called total internal reflection. This effect is used in optical fibers to confine light in the core. Light travels through the fiber core, bouncing back and forth off the boundary between the core and cladding. Because the light must strike the boundary with an angle greater than the critical angle, only light that enters the fiber within a certain range of angles can travel down the fiber without leaking out. This range of angles is called the acceptance cone of the fiber. The size of this acceptance cone is a function of the refractive index difference between the fiber’s core and cladding.
In simpler terms, there is a maximum angle from the fiber axis at which light may enter the fiber so that it will propagate, or travel, in the core of the fiber. The sine of this maximum angle is the numerical aperture (NA) of the fiber. Fiber with a larger NA requires less precision to splice and work with than fiber with a smaller NA. Single-mode fiber has a small NA.