The Design And Functionality Of Fiber Optic Lighting

by Michael M.

Modern technology allows us to make use of optical fibers and their unique ability to transmit light. These fibers can be used in both practical and decorative scenarios. In most cases, fiber cables contain strands of glass fiber inside a well-insulated casing. These unique cables are specially crafted for high-performance, long-distance telecommunications, and networking.

However, the same wires can be adapted explicitly for fiber optic lighting┬áscenarios. In these instances, optical fiber cables are used for transmitting light from a unique source to a distant remote location for illumination purposes. As the fiber cable transmits light, it glows along its length. This enables them to resemble pretty neon light tubes. Let’s focus on the design and functionality of fiber optic lighting.

Why fiber optics are used for lighting

Applying fiber cables for lighting has many distinct benefits, including heat-free lighting, electrical safety, spotlighting, a distinctly neon look, color variety, ease of maintenance, and durability.

Understanding how fiber optic lighting works

In lighting up spaces using fiber optic lighting, fibers form unique light pipes. Where light is transmitted from the end of the fiber (thus creating a beautiful glow) and emitted from the sides of the fiber’s length, this is called the ‘neon side glow.’

This unique light source is known as a fiber optic illuminator. It is always made up of a bright light source combined with corresponding optics to focus the light onto the fiber. All the light sources need to be very bright. Because of this, xenon metal halide and quartz halogen are the most popular options.

Additionally, some smaller fibers’ brands incorporate LEDs, which are also capable of coupling light into fibers. The drawback is that the light produced by LED-backed fibers is not as bright as the lighting from purely fiber optic sources.

The difference between fibers used in lighting and those used in telecommunications is that the lighting fibers are optimized for transmitting light, not high-speed signals. The core of fiber optic lighting cables also contains optical cladding to trap light.

Fiber optic cables used specifically for lighting are made of glass, or in some instances, plastic. Glass cables have very small diameters and require bundling many of them to achieve sufficient lighting.

Understanding the design of fiber optic-based lighting systems

At the core of each lighting project, are the basics: what is being lit, the desired type of lighting (color, illumination, intensity, and varieties), location, and illuminator placement choice. In most cases, it is important to consult experienced contractors and designers. They can point one to the best designs, manufacturers, lighting components, and controller components.

Installations of fiber optic lighting systems involve working with illuminators, fixtures, and cables. Most such applications have to be custom-made, and guidelines from component manufacturers will have to be followed.

Understanding fiber cable attenuation

There will be a noticeable loss in the fiber cable after installation due to absorption and scattering in most cases. This degrades the output power, considering that the attenuation of the line depends on the wavelength. In this situation, even the color of the emitted light changes.


Nowadays, there is the option to use optical fiber to transmit light from a remote source to the desired location. These same fibers can be adjusted and designed to glow along their lengths and to give the appearance of neon light tubes. Fiber optic lighting works in many ways, each taking advantage of fiber cables’ properties to provide lighting.

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