Optical Fiber Myths

Optical Fiber Myths

Optical Fiber Myths

Whether filling a glass of water or washing our windshield, most people take glass for granted as a functional yet fragile part of our everyday lives. Discover the myths and the facts behind optical fiber.

Myth #1 - All glass is the same

After a century and a half of glass research, Corning holds thousands of patents for glass technology. A single element added to glass can significantly change its properties. By adding titanium-doped silica to glass rods for example, Drs. Robert Maurer, Peter Schultz, and Donald Keck invented low-loss optical fiber, a technology that has revolutionized the way in which we connect and communicate around the world.

Myth #2 - Glass carries only solids or liquids

When we think of using glass containers, we usually picture filling a cup or opening a jar. But with the invention of low-loss optical fiber, hair-thin strands of glass carry data, voice, and video by containing and transporting light signals. Comprised of a light transmission area (or core) and wrapped in a light-wave containment material called cladding, each optical fiber acts as an information highway, offering nearly limitless capacity to our bandwidth-hungry world.

Myth #3 - Glass is fragile

Who hasn’t dropped a glass, only to see it shatter across the kitchen floor? Yes, glass used in everyday consumer products can be fragile. But by changing the properties of glass at the molecular level, Corning scientists continue to make glass products that are as strong as steel. As thin as a strand of human hair, every centimeter of optical fiber is proof-tested through a rigorous manufacturing process for tensile strength at a minimum of 100,000 pounds per square inch (or 7,000 kilograms per square centimeter). Far from being fragile, optical fiber is durable enough to withstand handling during installation and deployment in harsh environmental conditions in networks all around the world.

Myth #4 - Glass is for windows

We see the world through the glass in our windows; we connect with the world through the glass within optical fiber. Since its invention more than 50 years ago, over 5 billion kilometers of fiber have been installed around the world, creating an information superhighway that instantly and continuously connects us to global communications networks through devices such as computers, smart phones, high-definition televisions, game systems, and more.

Myth #5 - Glass doesn’t bend

While the glass we use every day seems inflexible, optical fiber is flexible enough to bend to a radius as small as 5 mm without disruption to transmission, thanks to our invention of ClearCurve® single-mode optical fibers. Manufactured for much more challenging installations and environments, these fibers bend around tight corners and can be used in hard to reach places without sacrificing performance. Time magazine named the product as one of the year’s best inventions of 2007 and this contribution is still being recognized today, with the inventors’ induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2022.

Myth #6 - Glass is low tech

Corning’s low-loss optical fiber ignited the Information Age and continues to serve as the “high-tech” backbone that supports the internet, wireless, and countless interactive technologies that we depend on every day. Over the past 50 years, we have built on this groundbreaking invention by continuing to develop new fiber technologies for submarine, long-haul, fiber-to-the-home, and enterprise networks that enable faster, better, and more cost-effective communication.

Myth #7 - Glass can’t change the world

Through optical fiber, it already has. What began as a breakthrough discovery in 1970 became a technology that revolutionized the way in which we connect, communicate, and conduct business. By reading this web page, you are part of that revolution, joining the billions of other people accessing data, voice, and video nearly instantaneously, via optical fiber. Thanks to the power and pervasiveness of optical fiber, we are a world that runs literally at the speed of light.