Photonics Dictionary

plastic optical fiber

Plastic optical fiber (POF) is a type of optical fiber made from transparent plastic, typically polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) or polycarbonate. Unlike traditional glass optical fibers, which are made from silica glass, POF utilizes plastics that have a lower refractive index.

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The core of a plastic optical fiber is made of the transparent plastic material, surrounded by a cladding layer that also consists of plastic with a slightly lower refractive index. This configuration allows light to be transmitted through the core of the fiber via total internal reflection, similar to glass optical fibers. However, due to the lower refractive index of plastic compared to glass, plastic optical fibers typically have higher optical attenuation (signal loss) and lower bandwidth compared to glass fibers.

Plastic optical fibers are often used in applications where lower bandwidth and shorter transmission distances are acceptable, such as automotive networking, home networking (e.g., in-home entertainment systems), industrial data communication, and illumination systems. They are relatively easy to install and handle, as they are more flexible and less prone to breakage compared to glass fibers. Additionally, POF systems are often more cost-effective than glass optical fiber systems, making them suitable for certain consumer and industrial applications.
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