Fiber Structures
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Frequently Asked Questions & POF Specifications

What is POF?

POF stands for Polymer Optical Fiber. Polymer is another word for 'plastic.' Optical fiber is a media for transporting and/or controlling information that is encoded on a beam of light, or for transmitting light for illumination or imaging.
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Where can POF be used and in what applications can it succeed?

There are many uses for POF, ranging from telecommunications to consumer electronics. A few possibilities include the following:

Short range networking--POF is an ideal media for short range networking. POF is easier to connect and use, which can reduce installation costs. It can sustain a tighter bend radius, making it more user-friendly and able to withstand rigorous installation tasks such as pulling the fiber through walls and plenums.
Aerospace--This industry has much to gain from POF, as its lighter weight can replace the heavy copper wire or silica fiber now being used. There are also efforts being made to use fiber optics to channel light to instrumentation panels for increased brightness and reduced weight.
Consumer Electronics--As bandwidth demands rise, copper will reach its limit of usability, and optical fiber will necessarily replace it. Polymer optical fiber weight, ease-of-use, and data transmission capabilities make it a perfect choice for consumer electronics.
The auto industry benefits from POF; its tight bending radius and high data tranfer capability make it well-suited to the automobile environment. As internet capability and other high data transfer features make their way into our cars and trucks, POF will carry the signal about the vehicle.
Medical Imaging--This industry has already begun to explore the possibility of POF for several different image-transfer applications. POF's tight bend radius and low cost make it unique for such applications.
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What are the advantages of optical fiber over copper wire?

The primary advantages of POF over copper are increased bandwidth and durability. The increased level of bandwidth expected from media such as the internet and multimedia will soon outgrow the capabilities of copper; POF is a cost effective replacement. Additionally, copper is prone to tapping and is not a secure medium, whereas optical fiber is extremely difficult to tap.
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What are the advantages of POF over glass (silica) fiber?

Polymer has numerous advantages over glass. First and foremost it is more pliable: consider the ability of Plexiglas™ to warp and bend versus a plate of window glass. POF has a shorter bend radius, and is more resilient to damage and abuse than glass due to its intrinsic material characteristics. It is easier to terminate, polish, and connect as well, which can reduce the cost of installation and maintenance.
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What is the bend radius and flexibility of POF?

Bend radii depend largely on the diameter of the fiber: larger fiber equals a larger bend radius. For fiber with an outside diameter of one millimeter (1000 um), the bend radius (damage threshold) is approximately one centimeter. For single-mode POF with outside diameter equalling 125 um, the bend radius (damage threshold) is as low as 0.125 cm. As indicated by these figures, POF is a very flexible medium; it is also quite rigorous and is not readily suscpetible to damage from bending (data loss, of course, may result from over-bending or from applying extreme stresses and strains on the fiber).
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What levels of intensity loss result from such bending?

This value varies depending on the individual characteristics of the fiber, but intensity loss values have been observed at 10-15% for bends close to the minimum radius.
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What is the attenuation of POF?

Being generally organic in nature, polymers have many vibrational and rotational bonds that soak up electromagnetic radiation. This effect is particularly acute at wavelengths on the red side of the visible spectrum. For instance, examine the attenuation behaviour of acrylic POF as measured by Kaino shwon in the graph below. POF is best employed with visible wavelengths. As you can see below in the first graph, acrylic POF can be expected to exhibit attenuation on the order of 1000's of dB/meter at 1550 nm. The situation is not much different for 1310 nm. However, for very short user lengths, near-IR and IR wavelengths have been successfully used with POF. Other materials have not shown marked improvement of this attribute. (click here for a listing of the materials we use to fabricate POF). The second chart (from Boisdé and Harmers book on “Chemical and Biochemical Sensing with Optical Fibres and Waveguides”) shows optical loss for some other common polymers for comaprison purposes. Actual loss will vary, dependent upon fiber size and other factors.


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What materials are used?

Paradigm Optics presently uses PMMA (poly(methylmethacrylate)), polystyrene, mixtures thereof, and other additives to manufacture its POF. We also employ various materials from other manufacturers. Click here to see our material list.
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Can I use any wavelength with POF?

Usable wavelength ranges are determined primarily by the numerical aperture and material capability. PMMA degrades with prolonged exposure to 400 nm and shorter (UV) wavelengths.
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How is it made?

There exist many ways to manufacuture POF. Extrusion and drawing/coating are two of the more common methods. Paradigm Optics uses a proprietary drawing method to fabricate its POF, capillary tubing, and polymer fiber structures.

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