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History Of Optical Fiber
Jun 26, 2017

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 Tyndall included a demonstration of it in his public lectures in London, 12 years later.[9]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 the perpendicular... 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′.[10][11]

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, light was guided through bent glass rods to illuminate body cavities.[12] 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. In the 1930s, Heinrich Lamm showed that one could transmit images through a bundle of unclad optical fibers and used it for internal medical examinations, but his work was largely forgotten.[9][13]

In 1953, Dutch scientist Bram van Heel first demonstrated image transmission through bundles of optical fibers with a transparent cladding.[13] That same year, Harold Hopkins and Narinder Singh Kapany at Imperial College in London succeeded in making image-transmitting bundles with over 10,000 fibers, and subsequently achieved image transmission through a 75 cm long bundle which combined several thousand fibers.[13] Their article titled "A flexible fibrescope, using static scanning" was published in the journal Nature in 1954.[14][15] The first practical fiber optic semi-flexible gastroscope 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.

Kapany coined the term 'fiber optics' in an article in Scientific American in 1960, and wrote the first book about the new field.[16][13]

The first working fiber-optical data transmission system was demonstrated by German physicist Manfred Börner at Telefunken Research Labs in Ulm in 1965, which was followed by the first patent application for this technology in 1966.[17][18] NASA used fiber optics in the television cameras that were sent to the moon. At the time, the use in the cameras was classified confidential, and employees handling the cameras had to be supervised by someone with an appropriate security clearance.[19]

Charles K. Kao and George A. Hockham of the British company Standard Telephones and Cables (STC) were the first, in 1965, to promote the idea that the attenuation in optical fibers could be reduced below 20 decibels per kilometer (dB/km), making fibers a practical communication medium.[20] They proposed that the attenuation in fibers available at the time was caused by impurities that could be removed, rather than by 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 use for such fibers — silica glass with high purity. This discovery earned Kao the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009.[21]

The crucial attenuation limit of 20 dB/km was first achieved in 1970 by researchers Robert D. MaurerDonald KeckPeter C. Schultz, and Frank Zimar working for American glass maker Corning Glass Works.[22] 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. In 1981, General Electric produced fused quartz ingots that could be drawn into strands 25 miles (40 km) long.[23]

Initially high-quality optical fibers could only be manufactured at 2 meters per second.[24] Chemical engineer Thomas Mensah joined Corning in 1983 and increased the speed of manufacture to over 50 meters per second, making optical fiber cables cheaper than traditional copper ones.[24] These innovations ushered in the era of optical fiber telecommunication.

The Italian research center CSELT worked with Corning to develop practical optical fiber cables, resulting in the first metropolitan fiber optic cable being deployed in Torino in 1977.[25][26] CSELT also developed an early technique for splicing optical fibers, called Springroove.[27]

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 emerging field of photonic crystals led to the development in 1991 of photonic-crystal fiber,[28] 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.[29] Photonic crystal fibers can carry higher power than conventional fibers and their wavelength-dependent properties can be manipulated to improve performance.


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