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There are several types of single mode graded-index fibers. These fibers are not standard fibers and are typically only used in specialty applications. Information on single mode graded-index fibers can be found in the References in appendix 2.


In most applications, the standard multimode and step-index single mode optical fibers mentioned before have significant performance advantages over conventional copper-based systems. However, performance requirements and cost restraints may prohibit the use of these fibers in certain applications.

Fiber manufacturers modify standard multimode and single mode fiber material composition and structural design to meet these additional requirements. Optical fiber design can depart from a traditional circular core and cladding, low-loss glass design. The intent of each change is to increase performance and reduce cost.

Optical fibers composed of plastic have been in use longer than glass fibers. Types of standard fibers using plastics include multimode step-index and graded-index fibers. Multimode step-index and graded-index plastic clad silica (PCS) fibers exist. PCS fibers have a silica glass core and a plastic cladding. Normally, PCS fibers are cheaper than all-glass fibers but have limited performance characteristics. PCS fibers lose more light through a plastic cladding than a glass cladding.

Multimode step-index fibers may also have a plastic core and cladding.

All-plastic fibers have a higher NA, a larger core size, and cost less to manufacture. However, all-plastic fibers exhibit high loss in the thousands of decibels per kilometer. This high loss is caused by impurities and intrinsic absorption. PCS and all-plastic fibers are used in applications typically characterized by one or all of the following:

  • High NA
  • Low bandwidth
  • Tight bend radius
  • Short length (less than 10m to 20m)
  • Low cost

Improved fabrication techniques provide the opportunity to experiment with material composition in both multimode and single mode fibers. Fiber manufacturers fabricate optical fibers using glass material whose characteristics improve system performance in the far infrared region. Fiber manufacturers add dopant material to reduce fiber loss and limit material and structural imperfections. Fiber material used in fabrication of low-loss, long wavelength optical fibers include the following:

  • Heavy-metal fluorides (such as zirconium and beryllium fluoride)
  • Chalcogenide glasses (such as arsenic/sulfur)
  • Crystalline materials (such as silver bromide and silver chloride)

In shipboard applications, stringent environmental requirements dictate the design of special optical fibers. In some cases, manufacturers hermetically coat optical fibers to increase survivability and reliability in high-moisture and high-strain environments. Manufacturers also design radiation-hard fibers for nuclear power, space, and military systems. Radiation resistant fibers operate after exposure to nuclear radiation. Shipboard system performance requirements determine whether the use of hermetic and radiation resistant fibers or less costly commercial optical fibers is necessary.

Q.21 Give two reasons why optical fiber manufacturers depart from the traditional circular core and cladding, low-loss glass fiber design?
Q.22 What five characteristics do applications using plastic clad silica (PCS) and all-plastic fibers typically have?
Q.23 List the types of materials used in fabricating low-loss, long wavelength optical fibers.

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