Educational Resources

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Educational Resources

Educational Resources

We are committed to providing educational tools for teachers and students looking to learn more about the basics of optical fibre, its composition, and its capabilities.

The Breakthrough Invention

What is low-loss optical fibre?
Low-loss optical fibre is a flexible filament of high-purity glass capable of carrying information encoded within pulses of light over long distances with low attenuation (signal loss).

Who invented optical fibre and when?
Corning scientists Dr. Robert Maurer, Dr. Peter Schultz, and Dr. Donald Keck invented the first low-loss optical fibre in 1970. Inspired by their belief that information could be transmitted through light, Drs. Maurer, Schultz, and Keck spent four years experimenting with different properties of glass until they succeeded, creating the first low-loss optical fibre for telecommunications use.

Optical fibre was invented in response to what telecommunications challenge?
Optical fibre was our answer to consumer demand for increased bandwidth. Beginning in the 1960s, the telecommunications industry realised that the existing copper wire infrastructure could no longer keep up as communications traffic increased exponentially.

Why is optical fibre a revolutionary product?
Optical fibre revolutionised the telecommunications industry because it allowed for low attenuation (or reduction of signal strength) and, unlike copper, offered virtually limitless bandwidth. Because of those qualities, optical fibre has become the backbone of the networks that we use today to transmit voice, data, and video around the world.

Revolutionary Design and Manufacturing

What is the composition of optical fibre?
Optical fibre has three basic components: (1) the core, consisting of high purity glass that carries information through light waves, (2) the cladding glass around the core that inhibits light from escaping from the core by virtue of having a slightly different composition to provide lower refractive index, and (3) an outer coating to protect the glass from damage.

How does it work?
Encoded into a pattern of light waves, information travels through each optical fibre by a process of internal reflection. The waves move through the fibre from a given source to a destination such as a cable box where it is then decoded.

How is optical fibre made?
Inventing optical fibre was only the beginning. Our scientists then had to create an innovative process to produce a fibre that could be cabled, spliced, and connected to make it practical in the field. Corning’s patented manufacturing process begins by creating "preforms" of glass on proprietary vapor deposition lathes. These preforms are sintered into a solid, dense, transparent glass and subsequently drawn into coated optical fibre, as thin as a strand of human hair. Additional manufacturing steps test the fibre for strength at 100,000 pounds per square inch and fully measure its optical performance before shipment to customers.

Optical Fibre's Many Forms

What is the difference between single-mode fibre and multimode fibre?
Single-mode fibre has a smaller core than multimode fibre, allowing only one mode of light to move through it. This design was created particularly for telephony applications, where the fibre needs to retain each light pulse over long distances. Multimode fibre has a larger core, enabling hundreds of modes to move through it simultaneously. Designed for cost-effective operation over shorter distances, multimode fibre is used primarily for data communications in private networks.

How has optical fibre changed since its invention?
The first low-loss optical fibre was celebrated for having a total attenuation (or loss) of 17dB/km. Today, there are optical fibres with attenuation as low as 0.17dB/km, which translates to signal loss being 100 times better than the original. As a result, optical fibre is the preferred medium for fast, reliable, and increasingly economical communications networks.

What are some examples of fibre products?
Corning holds hundreds of patents on the different types of fibre that support practical applications for today’s telecommunications market needs. We manufacture industry-leading fibres that connect continents, countries, cities, and citizens around the world. Corning's products include an array of single-mode and multimode fibres for all of today’s applications.

Optical Fibre Today

Where is optical fibre used today?
Today, optical fibre provides the infrastructure for broadband connectivity all around the world. We continue to design practical applications of optical fibre for enterprise, fibre to the home (FTTH), access, long-haul, and submarine applications to connect communities, countries, and continents.

How does optical fibre affect me?
Optical fibre serves as the high-tech backbone that supports all the communications and interactive technology we use every day. Because of the global fibre network, you have instant access to voice, information, and video through devices such as smart phones, computers, high definition TV, GPS, and game systems through which you get directions, send e-mail, conduct research, join social networks, shop, and download music, movies, and more.

Transforming the Future

What helps us predict how fibre will be used in the future? 
As has been the case from the very beginning, one driver that shapes the future of optical fibre is market demand. In response to new challenges and the increasing demand for broadband connectivity, our scientists will continue to discover innovative solutions as they are needed within the marketplace, and our engineers will continue to create new, practical glass technology.

What breakthrough applications are already happening? 
Optical fibre continues to create new opportunities in how we live, work, and play. Innovations such as Cloud Computing, Optical Port Technology, and Passive Optical Networks (PONS) will enable us to partner with technology in a way never before possible.