The Importance of Laser Diodes in Fiber Optic Communications

The Importance of Laser Diodes in Fiber Optic Communications

Fiber optic communication is a newer way to transmit information and communicate across the world, and it’s made possible through multiple technological innovations, including laser diodes. Laser diodes are precise pieces of technology with a variety of applications and are critical technology in fiber optic communications. Continue reading to learn more about the importance of laser diodes in fiber optic communications.

What Is Fiber Optic Communications?

To understand the role that laser diodes play in fiber optic communications, it’s important to know exactly what fiber optic communication is. People have communicated and shared information in various ways throughout the years. Spoken language evolved into the use of symbols and written language, leading people to eventually develop printing technology. Printing would remain crucial as the years went on, indirectly leading to the invention of the telegraph and the telephone to transmit speech over wires. While written communication, traditional telephones, and telephone wires still exist today, a new wave of communication is taking place through fiber optics.

Fiber optic cables transmit information via optical fibers by creating pulses of light. This light is a carrier wave, and its various modulations show how you can send different information. Telecommunications companies first started using fiber optic communications in the late 70s, with massive buildouts starting around 2000. Today, more than 80 percent of long-distance calls are carried in some part over fiber, and fiber optic networks form the backbone of the global internet.

Part of what makes fiber optic communications more revolutionary than other forms of communication is its incredibly high bandwidth. This high bandwidth means it can quickly and easily send data across the world with greater efficiency than its electrical counterparts. In addition to bandwidth, fiber optic cables can also transmit information over longer distances. Another benefit to fiber optics is that they are immune to electromagnetic interference, which can dramatically affect other forms of communication.

How Does It Work?

The first step in using fiber optic cables is to transform data into light that can travel through these cables. Wavelength-specific lasers known as transceivers will convert the electrical signals they receive from data switches into optical signals. Each individual stream of data is also converted to a unique wavelength, allowing a lot of information to be transferred at once, much like multiple lanes on an automotive expressway.

As mentioned above, these fiber optic cables transmit information via optical fibers through pulses of light, but how exactly does that work? The fiber optic cables are comprised of several hundred optical fibers, each thinner than a human hair. These fibers are wrapped in a layer of glass known as “cladding.” The pulses of light transmitted through the cable repeatedly bounce off these walls.

While light moves through a fiber optic cable about as quickly as an electrical signal in copper, fiber optic cables do not suffer from electromagnetic interference, allowing for far higher frequencies and higher bandwidth than copper. While not magnetic on its own, the electric current in copper creates a magnetic field that causes interference and prevents the transmission of higher frequencies.

In addition to allowing higher frequencies, attenuation in a fiber optic cable is far less, allowing fiber optic cables to run much farther without the risk of attenuation that is present with other cable forms. Attenuation can be incredibly harmful when dealing with important data, as it can compromise the overall quality. It’s because of this quality loss that industries in the past have been hesitant to embrace newer forms of data transmission, and why fiber optic communication is so valuable in today’s world of data.

What Are Laser Diodes?

Now that you understand what fiber optic communications looks like, it’s time to learn exactly what laser diodes are and the role they play in this process. Data does not come in the form of optical signals. Instead, data is electrical. You need to convert those electrical signals into light, which is where the laser diode comes into play. You pump electrical current directly into the laser diode; this current stimulation in the semiconductor material in the diode results in the generation of an emitted photon.

These emitted photons alone wouldn’t do much, but through sustained electrical current, you can create a stream of photons, all with the same phase and wavelength. Depending on the semiconductor’s material, you can change the wavelengths of the beams, making it possible to encode many different channels of electrical signals. Because laser diodes are so versatile, people use them in multiple industries and for various applications, such as disc readers, laser printing, light beam illumination, and fiber optic communications.

LEDs vs. Laser Diodes

In some fiber optic communication systems, you’ll find light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that are similar to laser diodes, but there are some key differences. Laser diodes can produce coherent light with a narrow frequency, allowing multiple channels of information to be sent through a single fiber optic cable. Alternatively, LEDs produce incoherent light, which is still effective but cannot easily support multiple frequencies. Imagine it like a one-lane highway compared to a multi-lane expressway. However, LEDs are less expensive to produce and suitable for “last mile” and intra-office communications, such as from a fiber optic hub to a personal residence or computer-to-hub connections used in corporate networks.

High-performance optical communications are designed with laser diodes because they simultaneously produce coherent light, they’re compact and efficient, and they can easily multiplex many channels through a single fiber. This capability is great for sending high data rates over long distances, but LEDs play an important role in supporting high-speed, lower-cost local networks.

Laser diodes are incredibly important in fiber optic communications. Without them, engineers would need to develop an alternate method for converting electrical signals into light that you can decode later down the line. Fiber optics is the future of communication, but it relies on a lot of precise pieces of technology, which is where Arroyo Instruments steps in. We have plenty of laser diode equipment, as well as laser diode power supplies, that plays key roles in the development of advanced laser diodes used in fiber optic communications. Don’t hesitate to contact us today for all your laser equipment needs!

The Importance of Laser Diodes in Fiber Optic Communications