Fibers pipe lights to hundreds of spots on airport runway sign (left). Some auto dashboards are illuminated by fibers (right).
One of the basic tasks in modern life, transmitting optical images from one spot to another, may be in for an upheaval as a new technology emerges. After a spate of key advances, optical fibers are at last on the verge of competing on a large scale with wire, cable, and microwave transmission networks.
Advantages offered by glass and plastic optical fibers are small size, high capacity through multiplexed signals, an easy add-on feature for future capacities, low material cost, excellent bending of signals over long distances, and freedom from interference from impinging force fields. These features lead Bell Telephone Laboratories to speculate that optical fiber cables may one day carry far more information than other comparably built light-guiding media.
…A market curiosity up to now in specialized applications such as medical probing devices, optical fibers have been slowly building capability in the past 20 years. The thin strands (typically 0.002 inch in diameter) are made up of a light-carrying core of one material, chiefly glass, polymethyl methacrylate, or polystyrene, sheathed in a second layer of glass or specialty polymer. The sheathing layer has a lower refractive index than the core has, trapping the transmitted light in a zigzag course along the central path.
New Technology Spurs Use of Optical Fibers: After spate of technical advances, optical fibers are on threshold of wide use in transportation and communications fields
Chemical & Engineering News, September 25, 1972