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A fiber optic data link sends input data through fiber optic components and provides this data as output information. It has the following three basic functions:

  • To convert an electrical input signal to an optical signal
  • To send the optical signal over an optical fiber
  • To convert the optical signal back to an electrical signal

A fiber optic data link consists of three parts - transmitter, optical fiber, and receiver. Figure 1-1 is an illustration of a fiber optic data-link connection. The transmitter, optical fiber, and receiver perform the basic functions of the fiber optic data link. Each part of the data link is responsible for the successful transfer of the data signal.

A fiber optic data link needs a transmitter that can effectively convert an electrical input signal to an optical signal and launch the data-containing light down the optical fiber. A fiber optic data link also needs a receiver that can effectively transform this optical signal back into its original form. This means that the electrical signal provided as data output should exactly match the electrical signal provided as data input.

Figure 1-1. - Parts of a fiber optic data link. 

The transmitter converts the input signal to an optical signal suitable for transmission. The transmitter consists of two parts, an interface circuit and a source drive circuit. The transmitter's drive circuit converts the electrical signals to an optical signal. It does this by varying the current flow through the light source. The two types of optical sources are light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and laser diodes.

The optical source launches the optical signal into the fiber. The optical signal will become progressively weakened and distorted because of scattering, absorption, and dispersion mechanisms in the fiber waveguides. Chapter 2 discusses the fiber mechanisms of scattering, absorption, and dispersion. Chapter 3 discusses the types of optical fibers and cables.

The receiver converts the optical signal exiting the fiber back into an electrical signal. The receiver consists of two parts, the optical detector and the signal-conditioning circuits. An optical detector detects the optical signal. The signal-conditioning circuit conditions the detector output so that the receiver output matches the original input to the transmitter. The receiver should amplify and process the optical signal without introducing noise or signal distortion. Noise is any disturbance that obscures or reduces the quality of the signal. Noise effects and limitations of the signal-conditioning circuits cause the distortion of the receiver's electrical output signal.

An optical detector can be either a semiconductor positive-intrinsic-negative (PIN) diode or an avalanche photodiode (APD).

A PIN diode changes its electrical conductivity according to the intensity and wavelength of light. The PIN diode consists of an intrinsic region between p-type and n-type semiconductor material. Chapter 6 provides further explanation of optical sources. Chapter 7 provides further explanation of optical detectors.

A fiber optic data link also includes passive components other than an optical fiber. Figure 1-1 does not show the optical connections used to complete the construction of the fiber optic data link. Passive components used to make fiber connections affect the performance of the data link. These components can also prevent the link from operating. Fiber optic components used to make the optical connections include optical splices, connectors, and couplers.

Chapter 4 outlines the types of optical splices, connectors, and couplers and their connection properties that affect system performance.

Proof of link performance is an integral part of the design, fabrication, and installation of any fiber optic system. Various measurement techniques are used to test individual parts of a data link. Each data link part is tested to be sure the link is operating properly. Chapter 5 discusses the laboratory and field measurements used to measure link performance.

Q.2 Describe the basic functions of a fiber optic data link.
Q.3 List the three parts of a fiber optic data link.
Q.4 What mechanisms in the fiber waveguides weaken and distort the optical signal?
Q.5 What effect does noise have on the fiber optic signal?

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