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The amazing shrinking optical cable

By Max Burkhalter
September 25, 2012
Remember those sponge toys you can still get in the supermarket? They were little sponge dinosaurs in a sugar-based egg that dissolves in water, making it look like the egg was hatching and a baby T-Rex was growing in the sink. They were the coolest thing ever for about five minutes while the dried out sponge expanded.

The moral of the sponge toys, from a much more adult and technical perspective, is that things can be much more efficient and compact when they are properly simplified. A sponge can effectively fit inside a tiny egg when all of the water is removed and it is folded correctly. A fiber-optic cable, similarly, can actually become more resilient and efficient when it is smaller.

There is a general rule in technology that I'm sure you've heard, that almost all solutions advance by getting smaller and faster. In the case of optical cabling, there is just one problem - making fiber optic cables smaller exposes them to more micro-bend issues, Lightwave reported.

According to the news source, the initial introduction of reduced bend radius fiber provided the necessary foundation upon which engineers could build much smaller cables and avoid some of the issues associated with macro-bend performance. However, micro-bend capabilities were an issue until recently, when the ITU-G657 international cabling standard was released.

The new standard establishes a method for designing and implementing reduced bend ratio fiber that is capable of withstanding a higher micro-bend force, the report said. This means that any force that may press down on the wire, such as extended exposure to cold temperatures which cause contraction, will not have an overly adverse impact on signal loss.

There has been a long standing dream among cabling manufacturers to make fiber more like copper in its ability to withstand extreme forces in a smaller form factor, and reduced bend ratio fiber could be the answer, the news source explained.

While the benefits of such a cable are clear, you may also want to consider how this development not only impacts the broad cabling sector, but also industrial networking. High-performance communications and data transit capabilities are increasingly important in industrial settings. Having a more resilient and smaller optical cabling format available could enable more optical networking growth. As this trend grows, the need for fiber to Ethernet media converters could also rise, as copper is still relevant in many areas, but fiber can pay off for long distances and especially high-performance settings.

Perle has an extensive range of Managed and Unmanaged Fiber Media Converters to extended copper-based Ethernet equipment over a fiber optic link, multimode to multimode and multimode to single mode fiber up to 160km.


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