FA 13 fibre-optic cables

Transmitting Growing Amounts of Data: Fibre-optic Cables are Indispensable

The wire trade fair shows innovative solutions for the wire and cable industry

Internet, TV services, cloud computing, industry 4.0, smart grid - Technologies such as these have become an absolutely integral part of life today, and are cornerstones of continued industrial and societal development. They are all based on the fact that light particles transmit signals. Optical fibre and fibre-optic cables – key products of the cable industry – serve here as transmission medium. The continuous increases in the amounts of data to be transmitted lead to ever-increasing demands on optical fibre and fibre-optic cable. Future-oriented manufacturing systems will be presented at wire – the trade fair for wire and cable.
Versatile Application Possibilities
Optical fibre is a fibre made of quartz glass or a special transparent plastic that is capable of transmitting light along its length. The fibre is protected by an outer insulating layer – a sheath – so that the light inside of the fibre is always completely reflected and transmitted in its totality. Fibre-optic cable consists of several thousand fibres and other elements that serve to protect the fibre from external stresses. Fibres and fibre-based cables and lines are capable of transmitting light for a wide variety of uses, for example the transmutation of data or the processing of materials. Since the light has a significantly higher frequency than the electrical signals that flow through copper, optical fibre can transmit much more information than a copper line. Moreover, fibre-optic cables have a much lower damping factor and are impervious to external electromagnetic interference. Several data channels can be transmitted independently from one another via a single fibre-optic able by using different frequencies. Whereas the first transatlantic telephone cable (TAT), laid in 1956, was capable of transmitting 36 telephone calls simultaneously, the TAT-14 cable laid in 2001, which consists of two cables that cross the Atlantic on different paths, can transmit at rates of up to 640 Gigabits per second – this translates to the simultaneous transmission of 7 million telephone calls.
Development Continues
In the mid-Fifties, the primary use of optical fibre was in the medical technology field for the illumination of inner organs. The breakthrough to industrial use was achieved in 1966 by Charles Kuen Kao, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009 for his achievements in the field. The scientist discovered that a fibre of pure quartz glass (SiO2) has the highest level of purity and therefore the best transmission qualities. His research formed the foundation for fibre optic data communications. Since that time, fibre optic technology has experienced continuous development that is moving at ever-increasing speed. For example, as reported by the trade media in February 2014, the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (IPHT) in Jena, Germany, in a joint project with industrial partners sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, developed the REPUSIL method, which allows the production of glass fibres with improved quality characteristics. Extremely pure, synthetic quartz glass granules are manufactured in several steps, which are then shaped into rods and finally into fibres. These fibres are suitable for the construction of high-performance fibre lasers, which can generate more than 5 kW of laser power with a single glass fibre. One application for such high-performance fibre lasers is in vehicle body construction, where they are capable of cutting, welding or drilling sheet metal that is several millimetres thick. The IPHT has established new scientific cooperations based on the REPUSIL method, for example with the College of Optics & Photonics (CREOL) in Orlando, Florida, the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing of the University of Adelaide, Australia, and the XLIM Research Institute at the University of Limoges in France.
In December 2013 the trade media reported that researchers at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne in Switzerland (EPFL), and other institutes such as the University of Applied Sciences for Telecommunications (HfTL) in Leipzig, Germany, had brought a method to a usable state with which the transmission capacity of fibre optic systems can be increased tenfold. Basically, the “shape” of the light impulses is improved to create a shorter distance between consequential impulses. In addition to the application possibilities that this makes available, the fact that this method can be used with existing fibre optic networks is especially interesting to the industry. Only the transmitter and receiver need to be replaced.
The wire 2014 Trade Fair
In order to efficiently produce fibre-optic cables, manufacturers need innovative machines and equipment. The leading international trade fair wire, which takes place every other year simultaneously with the tube and pipe trade fair, Tube, will offer information on this and other future-oriented developments. wire 2014 takes place from 7 to 11 April in Düsseldorf.