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What is a Fiber-Optic Lamp?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

A fiber-optic lamp is a lighting device that uses optical fibers, rather than traditional light bulbs, to create lighting for a particular space. These sorts of lamps can come in a number of different styles and may use optical fibers in many different ways to create illumination. There are a number of benefits that this sort of lighting has, including the potential use of natural light to create illumination, reduced power requirements for such a lamp, and greater control over light direction. A fiber-optic lamp is not always an ideal solution for every lighting situation, however, so traditional lamp styles are still quite popular.

It is typically the use of optical fibers, sometimes called fiber-optics, that distinguish a fiber-optic lamp from other types of lamps. Most lamps use one or more bulbs, typically traditional bulbs with a glass case surrounding a filament, to produce light within a given area. A fiber-optic lamp, on the other hand, uses optical fibers rather than a bulb to create illumination.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Optical fibers are strands of fibrous material that can be used as transmitters for light and similar signals. They function by transmitting light signals through their core, which is wrapped in a cladding that serves to reflect the light to keep it from escaping the fiber. One source of light in a lamp is enough to provide lighting for dozens or hundreds of optical fiber cables. A fiber-optic lamp typically uses numerous optical fiber configurations to create lighting in a number of different ways.

In general, two major types of cables are used in a fiber-optic lamp: endglow and sideglow. Endglow cables are encased in a solid, opaque casing that prevents light from being emitted by the fiber-optics within, and only the open ends emit light from the fibers. Sideglow cables, on the other hand, are translucent and allow light to be emitted throughout the entirety of the cable. These different cables are used to create different effects, allowing for anything from a spiraling lamp that illuminates in its entirety to a reading lamp that directs light at a specific area.

A fiber-optic lamp typically only requires a small light source, which means such lighting can require less power than traditional lamps. There are some drawbacks to the use of fiber-optics, however, such as fewer options for lighting sources within a lamp and difficulty in repairing such a lamp. A fiber-optic lamp may also be more expensive than a traditional lamp, due to the technology required to work with optical fibers.

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