Techbytes by sajan saini

Working of an Optical Fiber

‘A day in your life without the internet’. These few words are strong enough to make many people uncomfortable. The Internet has become a very integral part of our day to day lives. Its roots are growing deeper with every passing day. But, it was not always the way as we see it today. In the TED talk by Sajan Saini, the story behind the internet is gracefully uncovered. 


Sajan throws some light on the initial method of data transmission, which was backed up by electricity and copper wires. Although this gave satisfactory results in a small area, it was very inefficient for intercontinental connections. In the 1980s, scientists and engineers started focusing on alternative transmission methods. A revolutionary breakthrough was made, when they discovered the untapped potential of glass.

Birth of Fiber Optics and Significant Breakthroughs

Unlike copper, glass overcame issues like power loss, attenuation, and slower transmission rates by its inherent property of malleability and total internal reflection. This was accompanied by a lesser production cost than copper. This made glass an ideal material for internet data transmission. 


The world of internet was disrupted with the invention of the fiber amplifier doped with erbium, which was developed by Bell Labs. It heavily-reduced transmission costs and gave birth to financially feasible international transmissions. 14 years later, widespread use of commercial photonic-crystal fibers increased public accessibility of the internet, powered by fiber optics. 

Principles Behind Working of an Optical Fiber

Total Internal Reflection (TIR) is the phenomenon behind the efficiency of fiber optics. In the case of copper, data was transferred because of the property of conductivity. Whereas in fiber optics, there is no role of electrons as light rays are reflected within the cable. Under correct adjustments, the information in the form of light waves doesn’t escape from the glass wire. In addition to this, light waves are the fastest traveling objects in the universe, which gives an unparalleled edge to optical fibers.


Since glass is a very ductile and malleable substance, it can easily withstand twists and turns. This makes optical fibers an ideal choice for long-distance and high-speed data transmission. Fiber optics laid the foundation of high-speed internet and global accessibility because of TIR and low cost.


The arrival of fiber optics saved a lot of unnecessary data loss in the form of heat. This was very essential from a security point of view as the interception of lost data had dangerous consequences for many organizations. Apart from this, the combination of fiber optics and innovations in the silicon industry has proven to be a very revolutionary idea so far. This is because ultrathin silicon and photonic chips have led to a huge reduction in the architectural size of components along with resolving bandwidth issues to a large extent whereas optical fibers have the ability to cover large distances. 

Our Viewpoint

Fiber optics is the backbone of the current internet and data transmission. It is the connecting link between continents and countries, with glass fibers laid on the seabeds. The unique properties associated with the optical fibers make it a suitable and reliable technology. This is one of the very few technological innovations that are way more efficient and exponentially economical at the same time.