Everyone knows about fiber optic cables. The term is one that most people are very familiar with. But unless you work within certain industries, chances are good that this same group of people really don’t understand what these cables are and how they work. This post will synthesize a few resources to share:
- What fiber optic cables are
- How fiber optic cables work
- How to use fiber optic lighting
- Two products we use and recommend
Fiber Optic Cables
Bradley Mitchell, in his article, “What is a Fiber Optic Cable? The Role of Fiber Optic Cables in Computer Networking and the Internet,” shared a simple and concise description:
A fiber optic cable is a network cable that contains strands of glass fibers inside an insulated casing. They’re designed for long distance, very high-performance data networking and telecommunications.
Compared to wired cables, fiber optic cables provide higher bandwidth and can transmit data over longer distances.
Fiber optic cables support much of the world’s internet, cable television and telephone systems.
How Fiber Optic Cables Work
A fun website titled, “Explain That Stuff,” had an equally fun and interesting explanation with graphics.
Author Chris Woodford states, “Light travels down a fiber-optic cable by bouncing repeatedly off the walls. Each tiny photon (particle of light) bounces down the pipe like a bobsleigh going down an ice run. Now you might expect a beam of light, traveling in a clear glass pipe, simply to leak out of the edges. But if light hits glass at a really shallow angle (less than 42 degrees), it reflects back in again—as though the glass were really a mirror. This phenomenon is called total internal reflection. It’s one of the things that keeps light inside the pipe.
The other thing that keeps light in the pipe is the structure of the cable, which is made up of two separate parts. The main part of the cable—in the middle—is called the core and that’s the bit the light travels through. Wrapped around the outside of the core is another layer of glass called the cladding. The cladding’s job is to keep the light signals inside the core. It can do this because it is made of a different type of glass to the core. (More technically, the cladding has a lower refractive index.)
Fiber Optics and Lighting
As we shared earlier, most of us are familiar with fiber optics in a discussion of internet usage and telephone systems. However, many contractors, architects, and AV designers have discovered an additional use – Fiber Optic Lighting. An informative read on this is from Joseph Knisley’s article, “The Fundamentals of Fiber Optic Lighting.”
He states, “Fiber optic lighting continues to interest electrical contractors because of its complexity. As this technology continues to mature and find more applications, recent efforts of industry professionals to create a common vocabulary, calculation procedure, and testing methods will help reduce installation concerns. At the same time, the introduction of more complex acrylic fiber materials, which feature fewer environmental limitations, continue to simplify field installation techniques. In combination, all of these activities will inevitably drive up the demand for fiber optic lighting.”
Several applications and fixtures were listed including:
- Downlighting-type fixtures to provide light beam focusing
- Wall washer and accent fixtures in showcases or displays
- Landscape and exterior fixtures to illuminate landscapes, sidewalks or gardens
- Underwater fixtures to illuminate swimming pools, whirlpools and fountains
- Specialty fixtures provide tiny points of light or decoration
- Custom fixtures in furniture, handrails and artwork
Sescom Fiber Audio – Their website states, “Sescom is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high performance audio transformers and professional interface products for the pro-audio industry. Our products are in daily use in speaking, drama, live music, video production, network sports and worship applications. Whether on the stage at Radio City, in the wet grass with the Golf Channel or on the set of CNN, Sescom analog and digital problem solving solutions are the trusted name by seasoned audio professionals since 1975. We remain competitive because of our high quality standards, advanced engineering and genuinely helpful attitude.
Extron Electronics HDMI Fiber Optic Extender – Key features include:
- Transmits HDMI video and embedded multi-channel digital audio signals up to 300 meters (984 feet) over one multimode fiber optic cable
- Supported HDMI specification features include data rates up to 6.25 Gbps, 12-bit Deep Color, HD lossless audio formats, and CEC
- HDCP compliant
- All-digital technology provides pixel-for-pixel performance with signals up to 1920×1200, including HDTV 1080p/60 and 2K
- Supports DDC transmission
- Integrated ultra-flexible HDMI cable
Do You Need More Fiber?
If you are ready to take your AV design to the next level of performance, let’s get connected! To quote Herman Melville, “A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men. Our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
Tony, the AV Guy