Novel fiber optic cable that can transmit both data and power

A group of researchers from Japan has developed a fiber optic system that allows transmitting both data and power over the same fiber optic cable. The main purpose of such a fiber optic technology is considered to meet the growing power demands of wireless communications.

To be more precise, the team demonstrates that the novel fiber optic cable enables them to send up to 60 watts over a distance of 300 meters. The researchers confirm that this fiber system may become a perfect solution for the growing infrastructure behind small cells (“low-power, short-range radio terminals that backhaul data from the edge of a wireless network”).

The thing is that in recent years, fiber cables have been regarded as the subject of quiet but complex research, however, most power systems invented so far offer the transmission of little power. In 2012, one of the earliest optical fiber systems has been developed, applying laser diodes on one end of the fiber cable and a tiny photovoltaic cell on the other end.

Nevertheless, the fiber optic system has some limitations and could power just the optical fiber’s internal electronics. The researchers changed it by bundling two multimode power optical fibers with one multimode data fiber, then they fused them into a single fiber optic cable. Despite the fact that two coating layers of optical fiber protect it from crosstalk, the problem remains because most of the power escaped as heat.

Later it was discovered that the power efficiency is connected with the cross-sectional area of the optical fibers. Nowadays the researchers make their power fibers narrower and increase their number o six. Thus, the cross-sectional area has been optimized without the appearance of new limitations that additional optical fibers might have led.

The novel fiber optic cable offers such an advantage as the protection of the antenna units from unexpected breaks in the main power supply, for instance, a lighting strike or power surge. Nonetheless, optical fibers that allow transmitting more power over longer distances are still required to solve problems with small cell infrastructure.

The logistics of connecting them to a power source and fiber optic cable is regarded as one of the problems, and a power-over-fiber cable is not an ideal solution to this problem. The thing is that small cells (that are indoors) already employ a fiber optic system that allows passing power and data over the same cable. However, the developed fiber optic cable would only be perfect for outdoor small cells that consume between 50 and 350W. Herewith, usually, small cells are required to transmit data over longer distances than the 300-meter range of the new fiber cable.

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