The newsLINK Group - Mining and Fiber Optics

Editorial Library Category: Mining Topics: Mining, Fiber Optics Title: Mining and Fiber Optics Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: It is incredible but true: one of the most important technological innovations in communication is based on glass. Since the main ingredient for glass is silica sand and other minerals that have been melted together by extremely high temperatures, the only reason people can make optic fibers are because of the mining industry, which provides them with the raw ingredients. Editorial: Mining and Fiber Optics 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ thenewslinkgroup.com │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 It is incredible but true: one of the most important technological innovations in communication is based on glass. Since the main ingredient for glass is silica sand and other minerals that have been melted together by extremely high temperatures, the only reason people can make optic fibers are because of the mining industry, which provides them with the raw ingredients. If you are wondering what the two most commonly used ingredients for glass are, they are soda ash and limestone; but other materials can be added to create specific colors or properties. For example, it is possible to change physical and optical properties, such as the index of refraction, the coefficient of expansion, and the melting point just by adding specific ingredients to the glass. The idea is to create glass so pure that if you were to look through miles of solid-core optical fiber glass, you would still be able to clearly see whatever is on the other side of the glass. The Internet, cable television, and telephones are all products that benefit enormously from fiber-optic cables that have replaced systems based on copper wires. U.S. telephone companies use more fiber optic cables than anyone else, but they are also put to work in power lines, computer networks designed for local access, and to transmit videos. What exactly is a fiber-optic cable, and why is it so useful? The answer to the first question is simple: the fiber in a fiber- optic cable is made of high-quality glass that is categorized as being optically pure and that is also extremely strong and thin. In fact, the diameter of each fiber is about the same as the diameter of a single strand of hair. It shouldn’t surprise you that the fibers are strong; remember, after all, that volcanoes produce obsidian — a form of glass that is usually black, and that was used anciently whenever someone needed something hard and sharp for things like knives and arrow heads. In fact, doctors still use obsidian today in some of their surgical scalpels because it works as well as, or better than, surgical steel. The answer to the second question is also simple. Systems that use fiber-optic cables are faster, transmit more data, and do a better job of transmission than the copper-based systems they have replaced. If Alexander Bell had had his way, he would have used fiber- optic cables from the very beginning. When he began his first attempts to create the telephone, he started the process around 1880 by trying to use light in order to communicate. What he needed (and didn’t have) was a laser and something to direct it through, optical fiber. The laser was invented in 1960; in 1966, researchers discovered that they could use silica glass fibers to transmit light waves. By 1970, commercial optical fibers were being produced, and new kinds of lasers had been developed that took advantage of them. Datalinks that consisted of lasers and light detectors were used to convert analog electronic signals into digital pulses of light that could then be transmitted through fiber- optic cables to another datalink that would convert the digital light pulse back into electronic signals. How, exactly, does a fiber-optic cable work? Once the strands of optically pure glass have been created, they are combined into cables that can then be used to transfer digital data over long distances. In addition, fiber optic cables are used in medical imaging and in mechanical engineering when it is necessary to inspect mechanical welds in hard-to-reach spots, such as within airplanes, cars, rockets, and equipment orbiting the earth. The reason why fiber optics became a popular choice for transmitting data has to do with its benefits when compared specifically to copper: Several miles of optical cable are cheaper, lighter, and take up less space than cables that have a copper-wire core. The diameter of an optical fiber is smaller than would be possible with copper, which means more fibers can

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