Exploring unconventional applications of fibre optics

8th May 2024
Paige West

Fibre optics have long been celebrated for their pivotal role in revolutionising telecommunications. However, beyond their conventional applications lies a realm of untapped potential, where fibre optics are making waves in unexpected and unconventional domains.

Here, Marcin Bała, CEO of Salumanus, explores the less talked about applications of fibre optics.

Fibre optics function based on the principle of total internal reflection. Utilising strands of glass or plastic fibres as a conduit, this technology transmits light signals across extensive distances. The fibre’s core is enveloped by cladding with a lower refractive index, ensuring that light introduced at one end remains confined within the fibre by repeatedly bouncing off its internal walls, even when encountering bends along its route.

These light signals serve as carriers of data, encompassing a spectrum from telephone conversations to internet content. The efficacy of fibre optics lies in their ability to transport vast amounts of data at the speed of light, with minimal signal loss over prolonged distances.

Fibre optics in space

Fibre optic sensors present numerous benefits for spacecraft monitoring and control, owing to their compact size, immunity to electromagnetic interference (EMI), and adaptability to extreme temperature variations. Integrated seamlessly into spacecraft systems, these sensors play a crucial role in monitoring structural integrity, temperature gradients, and pressure differentials, thereby fortifying the safety and performance of space missions amidst the harsh environmental conditions prevailing beyond Earth's atmosphere.

Frontiers reports that the European Space Agency has been harnessing fibre optic sensors for over two decades, conducting extensive exploration into their efficacy across a spectrum of launcher and satellite applications. From enduring the freezing temperatures of cryogenic environments to braving the scorching heat of re-entry scenarios, these applications underscore the versatility and reliability of fibre optics in the cosmic realm.

Moreover, fibre optics have proven indispensable in enabling real-time data transmission and communication within spacecraft, facilitating crucial exchanges of information between onboard systems and mission control centres on Earth. This capability enhances operational efficiency and enables swift responses to dynamic conditions encountered during space exploration missions.

Fibre optics in healthcare

Fibre optics are pivotal in revolutionising healthcare practices, particularly in the realm of minimally invasive surgeries (MIS), where they enable procedures to be conducted through minute incisions, leading to profound reductions in recovery periods and enhancements in patient outcomes.

The paper ‘Biomedical Application of Optical Fibre Sensors’ delves into the myriad applications of fibre optic endoscopes, which provides clinicians with high-resolution imagery from within the body, facilitating diagnostics and surgical interventions without the requirement for extensive incisions. This cutting-edge technology finds widespread utilisation across diverse medical specialties such as gastroenterology, urology, and pulmonary medicine, where internal visualisations play a pivotal role in accurate diagnosis and treatment planning.

Furthermore, fibre optics play a transformative role in photodynamic therapy (PDT), wherein light-sensitive compounds are activated using light transmitted through optical fibres to combat cancers and other maladies. This targeted therapeutic approach minimises damage to surrounding healthy tissues, exemplifying the precision and efficacy of fibre optics in medical interventions.

Similarly, fibre optics are increasingly employed in the field of telemedicine, facilitating remote diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of patients. The high-speed transmission of medical data through fibre optic networks enables seamless communication between healthcare providers and patients, regardless of geographical barriers, thereby expanding access to quality healthcare services.

Fibre optics in security

Fibre optics are also increasingly recognised for their significant contributions to the realm of security, offering advanced capabilities in physical intrusion detection systems and surveillance applications. Leveraging their immunity to electromagnetic interference (EMI) and robustness in harsh environments, fibre optic sensors are becoming integral components of modern security systems deployed in both commercial and residential settings.

These sensors, deployed along perimeters, fences, windows, and doors, utilise sophisticated optical-based techniques for sensing and interrogation, enabling high-sensitivity detection of unauthorised access with exceptional precision.

These are just a handful of examples of how fibre optics are used in applications other than telecommunications, demonstrating their usefulness and diversity.

Product Spotlight

Upcoming Events

View all events
Latest global electronics news
© Copyright 2024 Electronic Specifier