Innovations in Optical Fiber

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A Culture of Innovation

Drs. Maurer, Keck, and Schultz Revolutionized Global Telecommunications

Three Visionaries

Over forty years ago, Corning scientists Drs. Robert Maurer, Donald Keck, and Peter Schultz were brought together to develop a highly pure optical glass that could effectively transmit light signals over long distances – a feat that had never before been achieved. Little did they know they would revolutionize the global telecommunications industry.

In the mid-1960s, it became clear to our researchers at Corning and to the larger telecommunications industry that the existing copper wire infrastructure used to transfer data and voice would not have enough bandwidth for the projected traffic of the future. The race to find a solution was on.

During this time period, members of the British Post Office came to our company seeking assistance in creating pure glass fiber optics. Their design required a single-mode fiber (100 micron diameter with a 0.75 micron core) having a total attenuation of about 20 dB/km. The very best bulk optical glasses of the day had attenuations of around 1,000 dB/km. This meant that Drs. Maurer, Keck, and Schultz had to see an improvement in transparency of 1098 in order to reach the 20 dB/km goal. The task seemed impossible, but they did it, and their technological breakthrough forever changed the world.

Today, optical fiber continues to enable the world of connectivity in which we live. Services delivered over broadband have become a critical component of daily life, with features that we all expect, such as access, speed, and reliable connectivity. Our revolutionary discovery and our ongoing optical fiber product innovations make this all possible.

In 2000, Drs. Maurer, Keck, and Schultz were awarded the National Medal of Technology for their life-changing innovation. This is the highest honor granted by the President of the United States to America’s leading inventors and innovators that have made lasting contributions to enhancing America’s competiveness and standard of living. Corning scientists have received this prestigious award four times, an example of our dedication to innovation and discovery.

Breakthroughs in Optical Fiber Technology Spur the Information Age

Breakthroughs in Optical Fiber

In the early 1970s, an amazing confluence of technological breakthroughs – the semiconductor laser, the microprocessor, and the initial “vision” of a global communications network – fueled the rapid acceptance of optical fiber.

Some view this as the beginning of the “Information Age,” comparing today’s social revolution of “information accessibility” to last century’s industrial revolution, in terms of scope and impact.

Optical fiber-enabled communications networks have evolved over time. In the early 1980s, optical fiber was being installed primarily by telephone companies and the benefits were evident. Optical fiber could carry vast amounts of information and light signals over long distances – many times that of copper. 

By the early 1990s, the fiber revolution was reshaping the way the world communicated. Improved fibers, better electronics, and the advent of optical components meant improved signal quality and greater efficiency. It can be said that the "Information Age" was materializing over optical fiber.

Today, the convergence of telecommunications networks and the access to those networks, through a growing array of devices by more and more people, is acting as the medium through which knowledge, culture, and information are being distributed in a more uniform way.

How Fiber Changed the World

The Future of Fiber Shines Bright

The Future of Fiber

Today’s generation is connected unlike any other. Currently more than 2 billion kilometers of optical fiber is deployed around the world, linking people, businesses, communities, countries, and continents together. 

The technology to instantly and globally share voice, data, video, and applications such as file-sharing, online gaming, video on demand, and HDTV continues to push communications networks to expand and evolve. Since our invention of the first low-loss optical fiber, we have continued to develop and deliver new generations of optical fiber technology, fueling the global expansion of broadband connectivity.

Due to its compatibility with other technologies and nearly unlimited bandwidth capacity, optical fiber has the ability to grow and adapt to future communication needs. We began the optical fiber revolution and will continue to lead the industry in developing the next generation of technology for the communications networks of today and tomorrow.