Optical fibers are widely used in telecommunication and are now almost replaced the legacy cables in many countries. High-bitrate high capacity transmission offered by optical fibers are irresistible to any network builder or telecom carrier. Optical fibers used in telecommunication are of silica glass based. However, there are optical fibers made of plastic, used in the digital home appliance interface, sensors, home networks and car networks.
Plastic Optical Fiber, (POF), typically uses PMMA (Poly Methyl Methacrylate), a general-purpose resin as the core material, and fluorinated polymers for the cladding material. In large-diameter plastic fibers, 96% the cross-section is the core that facilitates the transmission of light and only 4% constitutes cladding.
Plastic Optical Fibers have been called the “consumer” optical fiber due to their low cost compared to the telecommunication fibers. Unlike telecommunication fibers, the consumption of plastic optical fibers is low. The cost of associated optical links, connectors and installation costs are also low.
Most of the plastic optical fibers available these days has a fiber diameter of 1000µm, with a core diameter of 980µm. Its large size enables transmission of light even if the ends of the fiber are slightly soiled or damaged, or if the light axis is slightly off center. Therefore, parts such as optical connectors can be made inexpensively, and installation work is also simplified.
Plastic Optical Fiber loses only a small amount of light even when bent to a 25mm radius, so it can be installed to provide lighting within walls or other tight locations. It is also suitable for lighting in tight locations.
There are several methods for installation, but the one most common for light transmission applications is the Hot Plate method. It takes advantage of the fact that the material used is plastic so that fiber ends are heated and softened, then pushed against a mirrored surface. The process is quick and can be repeated with very little deviation. Installation is simple even for those who have never handled optical fiber.
Usually, a 650nm (near Infrared) Light Emitting Diode (LED) is used as the light source for POF optical transceiver modules. Since this wavelength is within the visible light spectrum, it is safe for human beings. Since 650nm is the wavelength used for a large number of DVD light sources, the cost of POF installation is also lower.
Home and office applications do not require transmission over great distances. Such environments need features such as ease-of-use, low cost, and stability. Hence POF is best suited in such environments. In addition to its conventional uses in high-speed trains and automobiles POF also has recently been increasingly applied to multimedia networks inside motor vehicles due to demand from drivers.
POF can be used for lighting applications in which heat isn’t desired, including semiconductor manufacturing equipment and artwork lighting displays.