The use of fiber optics in 21st century communication has radically altered the landscape for transmitting data and information from one location to another. By definition, this technology is a means of communicating information using pulses of light that are sent through an optical cable. These light particles become a kind of electromagnetic carrier wave that are configured to carry various types of signals, such as those we use in telephones, the Internet, and cable television.
Although this approach was first developed and used commercially in the latter part of the 20th century, the concept of applying fiber optics as a method of transmission goes back to the late 19th century. It was the father of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, who invented a device, and he named the Photophone in 1880. This invention would permit sound to be transmitted, or carried, on a beam of light. Though successfully tested, the technology to securely transport a light beam was lacking and, as a result, the practical use of this development was limited.
Development And Modern Applications
Building on Bell’s earlier work, fiber optics came of age in the late 1970s. Advances in micro-fine glass cables, developments of laser applications that could send light beams over long distances, and a growing demand for better quality and faster speeds caused the rapid evolution of this information transmission process and its increasing use in both public and private sectors.
Today, this methodology is well into its fourth generation. Use of newer technologies, such as optical amplification, has resulted in faster speeds of data transmission that once were thought impossible. In 2006, a single line was able to reach a speed of 14 terabytes per second. A terabyte is 1,000,000,000,000 bytes, which by any measure is an immense quantity of information.
Advantages of Fiber Optics Technology
As these products continue to replace the older copper wire systems that were once a mainstay in telecommunications, several distinct advantages have become readily apparent:
– Increased Bandwidth. A single modern fiber can carry as much as three million voice calls and 90,000 cable television stations.
– No Need For Insulation. Since these wires are not electrical conductors, no added insulation is required for their use.
– Improved Quality of Transmission. With minimal signal degradation, even over long distances, the need for additional equipment, such as repeaters, is significantly reduced resulting in lower costs to service providers and, ultimately, the end user consumers.
– Immunity to Electromagnetic Interference. The signals that are carried through these wires are light and not electromagnetic in nature. As a result, interference from external sources is dramatically minimized.
The Future Of Fiber Optics
Advances in this field of data generation continue to be made almost as fast the transmission speeds themselves. In 2013, an efficient rate of 1.05 petabytes/second (a petabyte is equal to 1024 terabytes or one million gigabytes). Some researchers have reached transmission speeds of 99.7 the speed of light, using new cutting-edge cable materials.
As the demand for faster speeds, larger data packets, and more reliable systems continues to grow, these new communication applications will also be enhanced by new scientific developments to meet the needs of the 21st century and beyond.