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CMoG demos optical fiber, what it is and how it works

CORNING, N.Y. (18 NEWS) - Optical fiber has been shaking up the telecommunications industry. 

Made of thin threads of glass slightly thicker than a human hair, it's used to carry information like phone calls, cable TV signals, internet signals and more. The glass used is high purity fused silica. 

The Corning Museum of Glass holds a daily demonstration on how this advanced technology works. Glass, despite being transparent, is the perfect material to send laser light signals through. 

Before it gained popularity, copper wire carried information, or bandwidth, through electrical pulses, but with fiber optics, laser light pulses are sent through glass. 

In 1999, a six-foot diameter bundle of copper (a model can be found in the museum) was equivalent to one fiber. Both carried half a million phone calls. 

"Nowadays, it's about 18,000 of those bundles," Eric Goldschmidt, properties of glass programs supervisor, said. "We can carry about 9 billion phone calls worth of information on a single optical fiber all at the same time."

Demonstrations at the museum explain how laser light signals travel through these little threads of glass.

Because optical fiber is made from such pure glass, it's difficult to strain or break it. There are no flaws on the surface so its perfection and purity give it its flexibility. 

In the demos, tanks of water are used as examples because water represents glass well and the lasers represent the light, or information transmitted. When the laser is aimed up or down, it does not break through the transparent glass but instead reflects all internal surfaces. It does not escape because internal reflection traps it in there. 

Additionally, low-loss optical fiber was invented by Corning Incorporated in 1970 when it was Corning Glass Works. 

"It's something for our community to be very proud of and we really want them to understand how that technology works," Goldschmidt said. 

Demonstrations are held three times a day at 11:15 A.M., 2:15 P.M. and 4:15 P.M. Each lasts about 15 minutes.

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