What are optical fibers made of?
Silica glass (SiO2) is the most common material used in glass fiber optics, due to its simple manufacturing process and robustness in installations. Other types of glass have been experimented with or used, especially during the earliest days of fiber optics.
In plastic fiber optics, materials such as polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), polystyrene (PS), and polycarbonate (PC) are used. Each of these have their own advantages and disadvantages, but PMMA is the most common material used for POF cores.
When choosing a material for a fiber, its refractive index (the ratio of the velocity of light in a vacuum to the velocity of light in the material), optical attenuation, (how much of the light signal is absorbed in the optical medium) and glass transition temperature (which reflects the range of temperatures the fiber can withstand) are all taken into consideration, as well as strength and susceptibility to loss due to bending.
How is fiber optic cable made?
When producing POF or GOF from a preform, fiber optic cable starts out as a large cylinder of preform of the core material. The preform is fed through an oven where it is heated, and a single fiber of the desired diameter is continuously drawn out, cooled, and spooled. Other methods of producing POF involve heating the core material components to their melting point, and extruding them along with the cladding.
How are polymer fibers made?
Synthetic fibers are produced through a process of spinning, where a polymeric liquid is extruded through fine holes called spinnerets. After this, the resulting fibers are drawn out to a specific length to increase the crystallinity and consequently the strength of the fibers.
Depending on the type of polymer fiber to be manufactured, different methods of spinning may be used. Wet spinning is the method used for materials such as acrylic, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), the polymer most commonly used as plastic optical fiber core.
What is fiber reinforced polymer?
A fiber reinforced polymer is a composite material that consists of a polymer material that uses fiber reinforcement to give it strength in the direction of the fibers.
Carbon fiber is a common example of this. Carbon fiber tows, consisting of thousands of individual fibers, can be woven into a strong fabric. This fabric is then reinforced using a resin to create a rigid material that has a very high strength-to-weight ratio.
Mitsubishi ESKA® GHTT-series plastic optical fiber cable is reinforced using aramid fiber strength members in its jacket. With this design, high-bandwidth optical data links to be run through mechanically demanding environments, such as factory automation robotics.
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