Abstract

The transparency of glass fibers in the visible and near infrared—improved beyond all expectations by recent breakthroughs—seems now sufficient to transmit optical signals unprocessed over miles. No wonder that efforts have intensified all over the world to utilize fibers in future communication systems. Materials research and fabrication are the fields where present progress is most rapid. New ways of preform preparation by deposition, doping, or diffusion are being studied and found to offer improvements and versatility. As far as materials are concerned, fused silica has shown the lowest bulk losses and hence receives the most interest, but many glasses are being studied as well. As new processes become available and record lows in fiber loss are being reached, propagation theory is finding new challenges as well. On the one hand, multimode fibers seem desirable with respect to transmitter compatibility, splicing, and fabrication tolerances. On the other hand, the signal distortion caused by mode delay differences in multimode fibers can be considerable and requires equalization—inherent in the fiber or at the fiber end. Beyond that, the wavelength dependence of the refractive index produces dispersion effects serious enough to be of importance. Thinking ahead, one is confronted with the question of fiber handling, strength, and life. The technology of making cables and splices from a brittle material like glass is in its infancy, and we can only indicate the extent of these difficult problems ahead.

© 1974 Optical Society of America

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