Plastic optical fiber, Polymer optical fiber or POF is an optical fiber which is made out of plastic. Similar to the traditional glass fiber, plastic fiber transmits light (or data) through the core of the fiber.
Traditionally PMMA (acrylic) is the core material, and fluorinated polymers are the cladding material. Since the late 1990s however, much higher-performance POF based on perfluorinated polymers (mainly polyperfluorobutenylvinylether) has begun to appear in the marketplace. The perfluorinated polymer fibers are commonly used for much higher-speed applications such as data center wiring and building LAN wiring.
Advantages of POF
- Plastic fiber is an inexpensive type of fiber and generally lower quality than glass optical fiber. Attenuation is generally higher with plastic fiber. Unlike glass, plastic fiber can easily be cut and bent to fit in hard-to-reach places and the larger core also allows for slightly damaged fiber to work. PoF is much larger in diameter which results in lower data rates making it most suitable for high bandwidth signal transmission over short distances. POF products are most commonly used in medical, automotive, home networks, as well as digital audio and video interfaces.
- One of the most exciting developments in polymer fibers has been the development of microstructured polymer optical fibers (mPOF), a type of photonic crystal fiber. POF fiber also has applications in sensing. It is possible to write Fiber Bragg grating in single mode and multimode POF.
- Plastic fiber attenuation over short distances is not a major problem and therefore is becoming popular in more popular especially where there are budget concerns.
- Plastic fiber is extremely durable and is able to be bent much more than glass fiber, however it is flammable, so care must be taken in deciding whether plastic fiber is correct for particular applications.
- POF sustains a data transfer speed of 2.5GB/s, which isn’t as fast as glass optical fiber, but is much faster than traditional copper wire.
Although the actual fiber optic cable cost per foot is similar to the plastic fiber, their installed cost is much higher due to the special handling and installation techniques required. POF offers promise for desktop LAN connections, can be installed in minutes with minimal tools and training. POF cost approximately one fifth as much as comparable bulk fiber optic cable, which puts it within reach of more consumers. Bandwidth exceeds anyones estimates for the next decade. Prices are competitive with copper. Standards groups are now looking at options for POF. POF could prove the next viable desktop connection.