Corning’s media department continues to crank out some very good, brief videos on the company’s glass and ceramics technologies. “At the Speed of Light” is one of the latest examples and, although I could do without some of the ‘feel-good’ glitz they have wrapped around this, I think it is one of the best brief (16 min.) explanations about how optical fiber is made.
One problem with optical fiber now being ubiquitous and essentially a commodity is that it is too easy to take for granted the complex steps of turning high purity raw materials into high-performance fibers. Step by step, from conceiving double-layer, core-cladding fibers to developing high purity glass feedstock to producing miles of fiber via high throughput operations is really pretty stunning. As one person in the video explains it, “The key innovation was determining a way to create low-loss fiber by creating a structure that entrapped that photon and did not let it leave the fiber as it was fired down the length of the piece of glass.”
Corning did quite a job of both developing the science and engineering of the fibers, and then successfully making the manufacturing leap to producing elegant dependable optical fiber in massive commercial quantities.
The video producers deserve kudos for letting most of the story be told by the engineers and scientists who produce these fibers. Their knowledge and joy for their work comes through. My recommendation is to jump to the 1:50 mark and then sit back and enjoy the video.