The telecommunications industry has undergone remarkable changes throughout the years. Nowadays, fiber optics are quickly becoming more popular, which will probably replace the traditional copper-wire transmission method sometime in the future. Several types of optical equipment are involved in the ongoing communication evolution, but fiber optic cables are the most relevant as of now. Each fiber comprising these cables comes from either plastic or drawing glass (silica), with a diameter slightly thicker than a human hair. This article will compare these two variations to determine which one is better.
The Fundamentals of Plastic Optical Fiber
A plastic optical fiber (màng pof) is an optical fiber derives from plastic. Generally, this fiber is mainly composed of PMMA (acrylic) as its core material (around 96% of the cross-section in each 1mm strand). The transmission of light is accomplished with the help of acrylic, while the fluorinated polymers serve as the cladding material. Plastic fiber optic cables produce harmless red or green light that is easily seen by the eye. Since these cables are safe, they are suitable for households where children are present. An improved version based on perfluorinated polymers is standard these days.
The Fundamentals of Glass Optical Fiber
As the name implies, glass optical fibers (GOF) derive from a glass material. This type of optical fiber is also delicate because it cannot be spliced, cut, or repaired. On top of that, it is prone to accidental breakage and not flexible. Nevertheless, glass fiber optic cables are robust and extremely versatile, which explains why they come in many configurations, adapter types, and end fittings. This type of optical fiber suits hostile environments very well. It performs at its best even when exposed to high temperatures, mechanical stress, and chemical substances.
Plastic Optical Fiber vs. Glass Optical Fiber
Let’s differentiate these two optical fiber variations by comparing certain aspects.
Although plastic optical fibers come from less expensive components, they are more flexible, lightweight, and resistant to many factors (shock, bending, and vibration). These fibers don’t require professional training and can be handled even without special tools or techniques. Plastic optical fibers generally come in bit rates around 10 Gbps. All these qualities make plastic fiber optic cables a great alternative to glass variants. On the contrary, glass optical fibers are more delicate, which makes handling more difficult. One great benefit of these fibers is considerable mechanical protection. This quality enables higher data transmission with lower loss. Furthermore, glass optical fibers make great options for small targets and small spaces. The red and infrared lights are compatible with numerous fiber heads as well.
Plastic optical fibers are ideal for transmitting short-distance, low-speed data (up to 100 meters). Due to this property, they are common in home networks, digital home appliances, car networks, and industrial networks. Moreover, plastic fibers play a vital role in multimedia and military communication network. On the other hand, glass optical fibers are more suited for high-speed, long-distance office network transmissions. These fibers are also resistant to hostile conditions and more durable compared to plastic variants.
As fiber technology continues to evolve, we can expect innovations to become less expensive and more flexible. Simply put, plastic fiber optic cables are more cost-effective compared to glass fiber optic cables. Plastic variants are also better suited for applications that involve continuous bending of the fibers. Depending on your situation and needs, the best option is the one that suits your network demands. Hopefully, this post has clarified the difference between these two types of optical fibers.