Fiber Optics (Encyclopedia of Science)
Optical fiber is a very thin strand of glass or plastic capable of transmitting light from one point to another. Since the late 1950s, optical fibers have emerged as revolutionary tools in the fields of medicine and telecommunications. These fibers can transmit light pulses containing data up to 13,000 miles (20,900 kilometers), and do so without significant distortion. The fibers also permit the "piping" of light into the body, allowing doctors to see and diagnose conditions without the use of surgery. Optical fibers operate by continuously reflecting light (and images) down the length of the glass core.
Production of optical fibers
Optical fibers are manufactured in a multistep process: the inner wall of a silica glass tube is coated with 100 or more successive thin layers of purer glass. The tube is then heated to 3,632°F (2,000°C) and stretched into a strand of thin, flexible fiber. The result is a clad fiber, approximately 0.0005 inch (0.0013 centimeter) in diameter. By comparison, a human hair measures 0.002 inch (0.005 centimeter).
The use of fiber optics
Optical fibers were first used in medicine in the late 1950s when fiber optic bundles were added to endoscopes (optical instruments used to examine the inside of hollow organs or tubes in the body). The new endoscope, called a fiberscope, consisted of...
(The entire section is 594 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!