In recent centuries, the pioneers of using light beams for transferring information tried the emission of light in the atmosphere. However, dust, smoke, snow, rain, fog, etc. hindered the dissemination of optical information in the atmosphere. Later, tubes and channels were introduced to direct light. In fact, light was directed by mirrors and lenses inside these channels, but setting these mirrors and lenses was difficult, and the method was considered impractical and rejected.
Fiber optics or optical fibers are long thin strands, made of a transparent substance like glass or plastic. Optical fibers are used to transfer light beams. Their bandwidth is much wider than normal cables. Thus these fibers can transfer pictures, sound, etc. at more than 10 Gbps. Fiber optic communication systems have a wider bandwidth than cupper cables and less delay than satellite communication systems so that they are considered as a main method for transferring information.
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Perhaps the first attempts to develop optical communication systems was made by Alexander Grahambell in 1880. Four years after inventing telephone, he invented photo phone, which could transfer sound over a distance of several hundred meters. The photo phone operation is based on modulating the sunlight reflected through oscillating a mirror. The receiver was a photocell. In this method, the light beam was dispersed in the atmosphere so that it was impossible to transfer information more than 200 meters. Although the machine worked, it was not commercially successful.
The idea of using refraction for directing light – the basis of modern optical fibers – was suggested by Jacques Babinet & Daniel Colladon (1840) in Paris. John Tyndall (1870) discussed the characteristics of total internal reflection as follows: when light passes from air to water, it leans towards a line which is perpendicular to the water surface. However, when it passes from water to air, it moves away from the upright line, and if the light beam is at an angle of greater than 48° to the upright line, it is completely reflected from the water surface. The angle at which total reflection begins is called critical angle. Two British scientists, Kaku and Cookham, proposed glass as a medium for emission. They sought to achieve transfer speeds of about 100 Mbps in glass. This was associated with severe energy attenuation. According to their method, up to 20 decibels was acceptable. Although they failed, Corning Glass, an America company, could achieve this goal. In the early 1960s, the invention of laser beam allowed communication through optical fibers. In 1966, the scientists developed the theory of transferring light through glass fibers and introduced optical fibers, outperforming normal cables. Optical fibers are lighter and more economical than cupper cables. Also, their transferring capacity is several hundred times more than cupper cables
Since 1980, due to the development of optical fiber technology, optical communication system has been considered as an appropriate option. Until 1985, about 2 million kilometers of optical fiber had been used around the world