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Modeler's Brand
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
He may not have invented FO, but we would not likely be using it as cheaply as we do today, without his contribution. Thank you Mr. Kao!

Charles K. Kao, who discovered how to transmit light through fiber optics, and the team of Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, who designed the first digital imaging sensor, split the award, announced by the Nobel Foundation on Tuesday.

Born in Shanghai, China, Charles K. Kao made a discovery in 1966 that would lead to today's fiber optics. A man ahead of this time, Kao calculated how it would be possible to transmit light over 100 kilometers (62 miles), compared to only 20 meters (65 feet) for the fiber cables available in the 60s. He discovered that by removing impurities and creating a more pure type of glass, the fiber could be made more efficient and absorb less of the light over great distances.

Kao's research stimulated other scientists to join the effort, leading to the first ultrapure fiber cable created in 1970.​
http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-10368421-76.html
 

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A little more info from
http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/10/ccds-fiber-optics-take-home-physics-nobel-prize.ars

Half the prize is going to Charles K. Kao, who works at the UK's Standard Telecommunication Laboratories, for his key contribution to the development of fiber optics. The basic concept behind fiber optics is simple: light traveling down a medium can be propagated indefinitely if it's surrounded by a material that has a slightly lower refractive index, allowing it to be reflected internally. The material that describes the award notes that scientists were demonstrating that light could be guided down water jets back in the 1850s, and glass-based devices were on the market roughly a century later.

The problem was that the losses were too large for applications that transmitted light more than a few meters. The first glass fibers had lost 99 percent of the initial light within 20 meters, ruling them out as a medium for long distance communications. As the development of lasers made optical communications look inevitable, a variety of ways to improve the performance of transmission media were being explored.

The Nobel cites Kao for avoiding the approach taken by others in the field, which involved looking at ways to improve the reflectance of the light. Instead, Kao focused on the material properties of the glass itself, figuring out why the light was actually being lost in the first place. Kao identified the impurities in glass that were causing problems, and calculated that if they were eliminated, there would be a sweet spot of wavelengths between absorption in the infrared and Rayleigh scattering at shorter wavelengths. The right combination of materials and wavelength should drop the losses more than a thousand-fold compared to the current state of the art.

By 1969, Kao and his coworkers had identified a material called fused silica as the best choice for an optical medium and, four years later, Corning Glass had figured out how to create fused silica fibers by chemical vapor deposition. Things have obviously gone pretty well since then, given that it's a near certainty that the bits that brought this article to you have almost certainly spent time on optical fibers at one point or another.​
 
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