Non-Telecom Applications of Optical fibers

There are situations in modern equipment where electrical power transmission is required, but metallic conductors can not be used. Optical fibers comes to the rescue to such situations. For example, the equipment used near MRI machine need electrical power, but the strong magnetic fields produced by MRI machines may alter the electrical signals. in such cases optical fibers can be used as control cables. Optical fiber can be used to transmit electric power. This is done by using a photovoltaic cell to convert the light into electricity. Of course, this method of electrical energy transmission is not as efficient as conventional ones, but this is the best suitable solution for such situations. High-powered antenna elements and measurement devices used in high-voltage transmission equipment also make use of the electrical immunity nature of optical fiber.

Optical fibers are widely used in health care equipment. They function as light guides in medical equipment. Internal body organs can be viewed on an external monitor and doctors can diagnose symptoms without dissecting body. In medical diagnosis, there are situations where bright light needs to focused on a target without a clear line-of-sight path. Optical fibers find their application in civil engineering as well. In some buildings, optical fibers can be used to route sunlight from the roof of a building to other areas. Optical fiber lamps are used for illumination in decorative applications, including signs, art, toys and artificial Christmas trees. Optical fibers are used to illuminate the crystal showcases from many different angles while only employing one light source in Swarovski boutiques. Light-transmitting concrete building product, LiTraCon also make use of optical fiber.

In the beginning of developments of optical fibers, one of the prime focus was their use in imaging, though later their wide usage in telecom field over shadowed the usage in imaging. For viewing the objects through a small incision on the body, fiber optic endoscopes are used by medical doctors. In surgery, optical fibers help the surgeon to perform his surgery without much opening the body. A small cut is required, which is usually to insert the surgical tools and a small optical image fiber. This drastically reduces the post-operation recovery period and reduces the chances of infection after operation. Medical endoscopes are used for minimally invasive exploratory or surgical procedures.

Industrial endoscopes, called fiberscope or borescope are used for inspecting anything hard to reach, such as the interiors of a jet engine. There are many models of microscopes that make use of fiber optic light sources to provide intense illumination of samples under study.

In spectroscopy, Optical fiber bundles transmit light from a spectrometer to a substance that cannot be placed inside the spectrometer itself, in order to analyze its composition in Spectroscopy. Reflection and penetration of light on substances is utilized in a Spectrometer, which helps us to study the remotely placed objects.

You may be familiar with the EDFA, Erbium doped fiber amplifier that eliminated the optical to electrical and then electrical to optical conversions in amplification process. An optical fiber doped with erbium can be used as the gain medium of a laser or optical amplifier. Rare-earth-doped optical fibers are used to provide signal amplification by splicing a short section of doped fiber into an undoped normal optical fiber link. In amplification using EDFA, the doped fiber is optically pumped with a second laser wavelength that is coupled into the line in addition to the signal wave. Both wavelengths of light are transmitted through the doped fiber, which transfers energy from the second pump wavelength to the signal wave.

Optical fiber is also widely exploited as a nonlinear medium. The glass medium supports a host of nonlinear optical interactions, and the long interaction lengths possible in fiber facilitate a variety of phenomena, which are harnessed for applications and fundamental investigation. Optical fibers doped with a wavelength shifter collect scintillation light in physics experiments. A wavelength shifter is a photo fluorescent material that absorbs higher frequency photons and emits lower frequency photons. In most cases, the material absorbs one photon, and emits multiple lower-energy photons. These materials can be used to increase the efficiency of a photovoltaic cell (solar cell) by changing one “too-high” energy photon into multiple “just-right” energy photons.

Optical fibers doped with a wavelength shifter are typically used to collect scintillation light in particle physics experiments. Fiber optic sights for handguns, rifles, and shotguns use pieces of optical fiber to improve visibility of markings on the sight.

Author: Fiber

Chief Editor of Fiber Optic Mania Magazine

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