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Fiber Optics

Course Outline

* Propagation of light in fibers

* Numerical aperture
* Single mode and multi mode fibers
* Attenuation in optical fibers
* Spot size in fundamental mode
* Pulse dispersion in optical fibers
* Ray dispersion in step index fibers
* Parabolic- index fibers & material dispersion
* Applications of fiber optics

* An optical fiber is essentially a waveguide for light
* It consists of a core and cladding that surrounds the core
* The index of refraction of the cladding is less than that of the core,
causing rays of light leaving the core to be refracted back into the core
A light-emitting diode (LED) or laser diode (LD) can be used for the

Advantages of Fiber Optics

The fiber optic system has enabled the telecommunication
industry to rapidly develop new advancements in technology. The
systems offer many advantages over the traditional metal (copper) wire
form of communications.

These advantages include:

1. Less expensive
* Saves the provider and the customer money

2. Higher carrying capacity

* Because they are thinner, more fibers can be put into the same size
cable as the traditional copper cable. This results in more phone lines or

TV channels per cable.

3. Less signal break up
The fiber optic does not lose as much of its signal as the copper wire and
a light signal in one fiber will not interfere with the signals of other fibers.

These conditions give the customer a clearer phone call, or TV picture

and sound.

4. Low power requirements

Light signals lose less energy as it is transmitted therefore low powered
transmitters can be used instead of the high-voltage transmitters needed
for copper wires.

5. Digital signals
Optical fibers are capable of transmitting digital signals that are used by
computers, such as those connected to the internet.

6. Non-flammable
The fiber uses no electricity and therefore there is no danger of an
electrical fire as with copper wires.

7. Flexibility
The fiber optic cable is very flexible, and, therefore can be used in places
that require repeated bending and shape changing, such as in the
flexible digital camera in your school science lab.

Parts of the Fiber Optic System

A fiber optic system has four main components:
* Converts a signal, for example sound, into a pattern of light.
2. Optical Fiber
* The cable that conducts the light patterns over large distances.
3. Optical Regenerator
* In transmittance, some light energy may be lost. This device boosts
the light signal back up to continue its journey. This is used for signals
sent over very large distances.
4. Optical Receiver
* Converts the light patterns back to an understandable message (i.e.,

Transmitter of Fiber Optics Communication

Transmitter : converts an electrical signal into an optical signal

It has two components:
(a) A light emitter: works as a source of the light coupled into the fiber
optic cable
(b) A regulator: to modulate this light to represent the binary data it

Requiements for a Transmitter

* Physical dimensions must be compatible with size of the fiber optic
being used emit light in a cone within cross sectional diameter
* Optical source must be able to generate enough power desired bit error
rate (BER) should be met
* High efficiency in coupling the light into the fiber optic cable
* Sufficient linearity to prevent the generation of harmonics & intermodulation distortion. If such interference is generated it is extremely
difficult to remove this.
* Should be easily modulated with an electrical signal & capable of highspeed modulation

*The usual requirements of small size, low weight, low cost and high

Receivers : to recover the signal as an electrical signal
Receiver performance is generally characterized by a parameter called
the Sensitivity

It has two components

(a) A sensor: to detect the light coupled out of the fiber optic cable then
convert the light into an electrical signal
(b) A demodulator: demodulate this light determine the identity of the
binary data that it represents

Communication through Optical Fiber

Fiber cross section

Signal processing

Science and Technology of Optical Fiber

Total Internal Reflection

Refraction of Light
* Light travels approximately at a speed of 3 x 108 m/s in free space and it
slows down for a material denser than free space.

* This reduction of speed when light passes from free space to the
denser medium results the refraction of light.

* The degree to which the light is bend depends on the refractive index of
the denser medium.

* Refractive index (n) is defined as the ratio between speed of light in free
space and the speed of light in the given medium

Refraction of Light
* The normal is an imaginary line perpendicular to the interface of the two

* The critical angle is the angle of incidence that produces a 90 angle of









(A) Angle of incidence < Critical angle

(B) Angle of incidence = Critical angle

(C) Angle of incidence > Critical angle

What is Fiber Optics

* Transmitting communications signals over hair thin strands of glass or

* Not a "new" technology

* A century old concept

* Used commercially for last 25 years

* Single fiber can carry more communications than the giant copper

Do you believe it ?
* The retina of the human eye consists of a large number of rods and
cones which have the same kind of structure as the optical fiber; i.e.,
they consist of dielectric cylindrical rods surrounded by another
dielectric of slightly lower refractive index.

* The core diameters are in the range of a few micrometers.

* The light absorbed in these light guides generates electric signals,
which are then transmitted to the brain through various nerves.

Why Glass Fibers

* Glass, does not solidify at a discrete freezing temperature but gradually
becomes stiffer and stiffer and eventually becoming hard. In the
transition region it can be easily drawn into a thin fiber.

* Highly pure silica is characterized with extremely low-loss; i.e., it is

highly transparent.

* The intrinsic strength of glass is about 2,000,000 lb/in2. So that a glass

fiber of the type used in the telephone network and having a diameter
(125 m) of twice the thickness of a human hair can support a load of 40

The Coherent Bundle

* If a large number of fibers are put together, it forms what is known as a
* If the fibers are not aligned, i.e., they are all jumbled up, the bundle is
said to form an incoherent bundle.
* If the fibers are aligned properly, i.e., if the relative positions of the
fibers in the input and output ends are the same, the bundle is said to
form a coherent bundle.
* If a particular fiber is illuminated at one of its ends, then there will be a
bright spot at the other end of the same fiber; thus a coherent bundle will
transmit the image from one end to another.

Numerical Aperture


Let a ray (incident on the entrance aperture of the fiber) makes an angle i
with the axis.

: the angle made by refracted ray with the axis.

Assuming the outside medium to have a refractive index n0 (which for
most practical cases is unity), we get
sin i/ sin = n1/n0
if this ray has to suffer total internal reflection (TFR) at the core-cladding
For TFR,
sin > n2/n1

> c = sin-1 (n2/n1)

Or cos < n2/n1

Or, < c = cos-1 (n2/n1)

(as = 90 - )

sin < [1- (n2/n1)2]1/2

Replacing sin by sin i,

sin i < (n1/n0)[1- (n2/n1)2]1/2
sin i < [(n12 - n22) /n02]1/2

In most cases, the outside medium is air, i.e., n0 = 1; and therefore the
maximum value of sin i for a ray to be guided is given by

sin im = (n12 - n22)1/2


if n12 < n22 +1

if n12 > n22 +1

Thus, if a cone of light is incident on one end of the fiber, it will be guided
through it provided the semiangle of the cone is less than im.
The quantity sin im is known as the numerical aperture (NA) of the fiber
and is a measure of the light-gathering power of the fiber.

In almost all practical situations, n12 < n22 + 1, and the numerical
aperture of the fiber becomes
NA = (n12 - n22)1/2

If the core and cladding have almost the same index of refraction,
the numerical aperture will be small

This means that light must be shooting right down the center of
the fiber to stay in the core

Cross-section of Optical Fiber

Glass or plastic with a higher index of refraction than
the cladding
Carries the signal
Glass or plastic with a
lower index of refraction
than the core
Protects the fiber from
damage and moisture
Holds one or more fibers in a cable

Single Mode Fiber

* Single mode fiber has a core diameter of 8 to 9 microns
* This only allows one light path or mode
* 8 micron single-mode for long distances or high bandwidths, requiring
laser sources

Multi Mode Fiber

* Multimode fiber has a core diameter of 50 or 62.5 microns (sometimes
even larger)
* Allows several light paths or modes
* 62.5 micron multimode, intended for LEDs and 100 Mbps networks

Dont Mix Fiber Types

* You cant mix singlemode and multimode fiber [ because the loss will be
20 dB at the junction (i.e. 99% of the light)]

* Mixing 50 micron and 62.5 micron multimode is not as bad, but you lose
3 dB (half the power) which is usually unacceptable

Gigabit Ethernet
* 62.5 micron multimode fiber did not have enough bandwidth for Gigabit
Ethernet (1000 Mbps)
* LEDs cannot be used as sources for Gigabit Ethernet they are too

* So Gigabit Ethernet used a new, inexpensive source:

Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL)

Sources and Wavelengths

* Multimode fiber is used with LED sources at wavelengths of 850 and
1300 nm for slower local area networks
* Lasers at 850 and 1310 nm for networks running at gigabits per second
or more

Fiber Optic Specifications

* Attenuation
Loss of signal, measured in dB

* Dispersion
Blurring of a signal, affects bandwidth

* Bandwidth
The number of bits per second that can be sent through a data

* Numerical Aperture
Measures the largest angle of light that can be accepted into the

Measuring Bandwidth
The bandwidth-distance product in units of MHzkm shows how
fast data can be sent through a cable

A common multimode fiber with bandwidth-distance product of

500 MHzkm could carry

- A 500 MHz signal for 1 km

- A 1000 MHz signal for 0.5 km

Attenuation and Dispersion

The attenuation of an optical beam is usually measured in decibels (dB).

If an input power P1 results in an output power P2, then the loss in

decibels is given by

= 10 log (Pinput/Poutput)
If the Poutput is the same as the Pinput, then the loss is = 0 dB.
If the Poutput is only 1/10th 1/10 of the Pinput, then the loss is = 10 dB.
If the Poutput is only 1/100th of the Pinput, then the loss is = 20 dB.

If the Poutput is only 1/1000th of the Pinput, then the loss is = 30 dB.

Loss in a Silica Fiber



After removal of the trace amount

of water and other impurities

The diagram corresponds to the fiber fabricated by Sterlite

Industries at Aurangabad and is courtesy S. Bhatia of

Sterlite Industries.

* The decrease in loss with increase in wavelength due to Rayleigh

* Light wavelengths toward the blue region have suffered greater

scattering out of the fiber than those of the red region.

* Thus although at the input end all wavelengths are coupled, there is
more power in the red part at the output giving it a reddish color.

V-number or waveguide parameter

Numerical aperture (NA) = sin im = (n12 - n22)1/2
= n1 (2)1/2
where = (n12 - n22)/2n22
For silica fiber, << 1, because n1 and n2 are nearly equal.
For silica, (n1 + n2)(n1 - n2)/2n22 (n1 - n2)/n2 (n1 - n2)/n1


We considered light propagation inside the fiber as a set of many rays
bouncing back and forth at the core-cladding interface.
For total internal reflection, the angle could take a continuum of values
lying between 0 and cos1(n2/n1)
0 < < cos1(n2/n1)
For n2 =1.5, (n1 - n2)/n1 = 0.01, so cos1(n2/n1) = 8.1
0 < < 8.1
Now, when the core radius (or the quantity ) becomes very small, ray
optics does not remain valid and one has to use the more accurate wave

theory based on Maxwells equations.

In wave theory, one introduces the parameter


Where V is the V-number or the waveguide parameter of the fiber.

It can be shown that, if V < 2.4045 only one guided mode (as if there is
only one discrete value of ) is possible and the fiber is known as a
single-mode fiber.
Further, for a step-index single-mode fiber, the corresponding (discrete)
value of is approximately given by the following empirical formula
cos 1 [1 {(1.1428 V 0.996)/V}2 ]
In practical, the value of ranges from about 0.002 to about 0.008.

Single Mode Fiber

A single-mode fiber supports only one mode that propagates
through the fiber.

This mode is also referred to as the fundamental mode of the fiber.

The transverse field distribution associated with the fundamental mode

of a single-mode fiber is an extremely important quantity.

It determines various important parameters like splice loss at joints,

launching efficiencies, bending loss, etc.

For most single-mode fibers, the fundamental mode-field distributions

can be approximated by a Gaussian function.

Spot Size in Fundamental Mode

For single-mode fibers, the Gaussian function can be written as

Where w = the spot size of the mode-field pattern.


r = 0, (0) = A


r = w, (w) = A/e

For a step-index (single-mode) fiber,

w/a 0.65 + (1.619/V3/2) + (2.879/V6)

[ 0.8 < V < 2.5]

Where a is the core radius and V is the V-number

We may mention here that the light coming from a HeNe laser (or
from a laser pointer) has a transverse intensity distribution very similar
to that coming from a single-mode fiber except that the spot size for the
HeNe laser is much larger.

The quantity 2w is also referred to as the mode-field diameter (MFD) of

the fiber and is a very important property of single-mode fibers.

In fact, MFD is a more important property than core diameter in the case
of single-mode fibers, since it determines the splice loss across a joint,
bending loss, dispersion, etc. of single-mode fibers.

Splice loss due to transverse misalignment




The most common misalignment at a joint between two similar

fibers is the transverse misalignment.
Corresponding to a transverse misalignment of u, the power loss in
decibels is given by
(dB) 4.34 (u/w)2

Thus a larger value of w will lead to a greater tolerance to transverse

For w 5 m, and a transverse offset of 1 m, 0.18 dB.
On the other hand, for w 3 m, a transverse offset of 1 m, 0.15 dB.

Pulse Dispersion in Optical Fibers

Digital Signal Processing (DSP):
In digital communication systems,
(i)First information to be sent is coded in the form of pulses
(ii)Then these pulses are sent from the transmitter to the receiver
(iii)The information is decoded to get the original signal.

The transmission capacity of the system depends on the number of

pulses that can be sent per unit time and still be resolvable at the
receiver end.

Pulse dispersion: Broadening of a pulse of light in time during its

propagation through the fiber

Origin of Different Types of Pulse Dispersion

(A) Intermodal dispersion: In multimode fibers, different rays take
different times to propagate through a given length of the fiber due to
different modes traveling with different group velocities.
In single-mode fibers since there is only mode, there is no
intermodal dispersion
(B) Material dispersion: Any given light source emits over a range of
wavelengths, and because of the intrinsic property of the material of
the fiber, different wavelengths take different amounts of time to
propagate along the same path.
It is present in both single-mode and multimode fibers.
(C) Waveguide dispersion: It is due to the geometry of the single mode
The waveguide dispersion is present in multimode fibers also, but

the effect is very small and can be neglected.

Ray Dispersion in Multimode Step Index Fibers (SIF)


* In a step index fiber, the refractive index of the core has a constant

* Rays making larger angles with the axis (those shown as dotted rays)
have to traverse a longer optical path length and therefore take a longer
time to reach the output end.

For a ray making an angle with the axis, the distance AB is traversed
in time tAB is
tAB = distance/velocity = (AC +CB)/ (c/n1) = (AB/ cos )/ (c/n1)
= n1 AB/ c cos
(n1: refractive index of core, c: velocity of light)
Since the ray path will repeat itself, the time taken by a ray to traverse a
length L of the fiber is
tL = n1 L/ c cos
The above expression shows that the time taken by a ray is a function of
the angle made by the ray with the z axis and it leads to pulse


If we assume that all rays lying between = 0 and = c = cos1(n2/n1),
the time taken by these extreme rays for a fiber of length L is given by
tmin = n1 L/ c cos = n1 L/ c

for = 0

tmax = n1 L/ c cos c

for = c

= n12 L/ c n2

(as cos c = n2 /n1)

If all the input rays were excited simultaneously, the rays would occupy a
time interval at the output end of duration
i = tmax - tmin

* The quantity i represents the pulse dispersion due to different rays
taking different times in propagating through the fiber.
* The pulse dispersion is proportional to the square of NA.
* Thus to have a smaller dispersion, one must have a smaller NA, which
of course reduces the acceptance angle and hence the light-gathering

* Now if at the input end of the fiber we have a pulse of width

1, then

after propagating through a length L of the fiber the pulse will have a

2, then
2 2 = 1 2 + i 2

* The pulse broadens as it propagates through the fiber



* Case-1: Pulses separated by 100 ns at the input end would be

resolvable at the output end of 1 km of the fiber.
* Case-2: The same pulses would not be resolvable at the output end of 2
km of the same fiber
* Hence, even though two pulses may be well resolved at the input end,
because of the broadening of the pulses they may not be so at the output


Where the output pulses are not resolvable, no information can be

Thus, the smaller the pulse dispersion, the greater the informationcarrying capacity of the system.

Therefore, for a very high information-carrying system, it is necessary to

reduce the pulse dispersion.

Two alternative solutions exist:

(i) The use of near parabolic index fibers
(ii)The use of single-mode fibers

Parabolic Index Fibers (PIF)

In a PIF (Parabolic Index Fiber), the refractive index in the core
decreases continuously (in a quadratic fashion) from a maximum value at
the center of the core to a constant value at the core-cladding interface.

The variation in refractive index is

n2 (r) =

where = (n12 - n22)/2n12

The above equation is referred to as a power law profile or a q profile
For q = 1, q = 2, and q =

correspond to the linear, parabolic, and step

index profiles, respectively.

* The variation in refractive index for parabolic index profile is

n2 (r) =

* The ray paths in a parabolic waveguide are sinusoidal.

* For a typical (multimode) parabolic index silica fiber 0.01, n2 1.45,
and a 25 m.

Now, even though rays making larger angles with the axis traverse a
larger path length, they do so in a region of lower refractive index (and
hence greater speed).
The longer path length is almost compensated for by a greater average
speed such that all rays take approximately the same amount of time in
traversing the fiber.

For a parabolic index waveguide, the intermodal dispersion is given by

i n2L2/2c

Comparison between SIF and PIF

For a typical (multimode) step index fiber (SIF), if we assume n1 = 1.5, =
0.01, and L = 1 km, we get parabolic index waveguide
i = n1L/c = 1.5 x 1000 x 0.01/ 3x 108 = 50 ns/km

For a typical (multimode) parabolic index fiber (PIF) with n2 1.45, L = 1

km and 0.01, we get
i n2L2/2c = 0.25 ns/km

For a parabolic index fiber, the pulse dispersion is reduced by a factor of

about 200 in comparison to the step index fiber. For this reason first- and

second-generation optical communication systems used near-parabolic

index fibers.

* In order to further decrease the pulse dispersion, it is necessary to use
single-mode fibers because there will be no intermodal dispersion.

* In almost all long-distance fiber-optic communication systems, one

uses single-mode fibers.

* In many local-area communication systems (such as intra-office

networks), one still uses parabolic index multimode fibers.

Material Dispersion
* In multimode dispersion, the broadening of an optical pulse due to
different rays taking different amounts of time to propagate through a
certain length of the fiber.

* However, every source of light has a certain wavelength spread which

is often referred to as the spectral width of the source.
Spectral width of a white light source (Sun): 300 nm

Spectral width of LED: 25 nm

Spectral width of a typical laser diode (operating at 1300 nm): 2 nm
* The refractive index of the medium as well as the group velocity (vg)
depends on the wavelength.
* Thus, each wavelength component (of the pulse) will travel with a
slightly different group velocity (vg) through the fiber, resulting in a
broadening of a pulse.

The pulse broadening (due to wavelength dependence of the refractive
index) is given by

where L: length of the fiber

0: spectral width of the source
c: speed of light in free space

The material dispersion coefficient can be written as

Material Dispersion
The material dispersion coefficient can be written as

* Dm represents the material dispersion in picoseconds per kilometer

length of the fiber per nanometer spectral width of the source.

* At a particular wavelength, the value of Dm is a characteristic of the

material and is (almost) the same for all silica fibers.
* ve Dm: means longer wavelengths travel faster
* +ve Dm: means shorter wavelengths travel faster

(A) Optical wave guide

(B) Telecommunication

(C) Sensors

(D) Decoration

(E) Medicine
The properties of the fiber optic have allowed medical personnel to see
places in the human body with greater ease and comfort for the patient.
The well known areas are bronchoscopes, endoscopes, laparoscopes
etc. All of these tools make use the ability of fiber optics to carry light,
the small size of a single fiber as well as the flexibility of each fiber.

Manufacture of Optical Fiber


* Modified Chemical Vapor Deposition (MCVD)

* Outside Vapor Deposition (OVD)

* Vapor Axial Deposition (VAD)

Modified Chemical Vapor Deposition (MCVD)

* A hollow, rotating glass tube is heated with a torch
* Chemicals inside the tube precipitate to form soot
* Rod is collapsed to crate a preform
* Preform is stretched in a drawing tower to form a single fiber up to 10
km long
Sintered glass

Soot deposition


Traversing Burner

Preform: a piece of glass used to draw an optical fiber

Soot: impure carbon particles resulting from the incomplete combustion
of a hydrocarbon

Outside Vapor Deposition (OVD)

* A mandrel is coated with a porous preform in a furnace

* Then the mandrel is removed and the preform is collapsed in a process

called sintering
(Mandrel: A spindle or an axle used to secure or support material being
machined or milled)


Porous preform

Deposition process


Sintering process

Vapor Axial Deposition (VAD)

* Preform is fabricated continuously
* When the preform is long enough, it goes directly to the drawing tower




The fiber is drawn from the preform and then coated with a protective
Feed mechanism


LASER micrometer

Coating application
Coated fiber
UV cure
LASER micrometer

Take-up spool
Pinch wheel