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Free Space Optic Design
Free space optics is the area of optics where light propagates freely through space. This is contrary to guided wave optics where light propagates through waveguides. There are various applications of free space optics.
- LAN-to-LAN connections on campuses at Fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet speeds.
- LAN-to-LAN connections in a city. example, Metropolitan area network.
- To cross a public road or other barriers which the sender and receiver do not own.
- Speedy service delivery of high-bandwidth access to optical fiber networks.
- Converged Voice-Data-Connection.
- Temporary network installation (for events or other purposes).
- Reestablish high-speed connection quickly (disaster recovery).
- As an alternative or upgrade add-on to existing wireless technologies.
- As a safety add-on for important fiber connections (redundancy).
- For communications between spacecraft, including elements of a satellite constellation.
- For inter- and intra-chip communication.
Advantages of Free Space Optics (FSO)
- Ease of deployment
- License-free operation
- High bit rates
- Low bit error rates
- Immunity to electromagnetic interference because light is being used instead of microwave.
- Full duplex operation
- Protocol transparency
- Very secure due to the high directionality and narrowness of the beam(s). Difficult to intercept.
- No Fresnel zone necessary
Disadvantages of Free Space Optics (FSO)
For terrestrial applications, the principal limiting factors are:
- Beam dispersion
- Atmospheric absorption
- Fog (10..~100 dB/km attenuation)
- Background light
- Pointing stability in wind
- Pollution / smog
The optical links can be implemented using infrared laser light, although low-data-rate communication over short distances is possible using LEDs. Maximum range for terrestrial links is in the order of 2-3 km, but the stability and quality of the link is highly dependent on atmospheric factors such as rain, fog, dust and heat. Amateur radio operators have achieved significantly farther distances (173 miles in at least one occasion) using incoherent sources of light from high-intensity LEDs. However, the low-grade equipment used limited bandwidths to about 4kHz. In outer space, the communication range of free-space optical communication is currently in the order of several thousand kilometers, but has the potential to bridge interplanetary distances of millions of kilometers, using optical telescopes as beam expanders.
Secure free-space optical communications have been proposed using a laser N-slit interferometer where the laser signal takes the form of an interferometric pattern. Any attempt to intercept the signal causes the collapse of the interferometric pattern. Although this method has been demonstrated at laboratory distances in principle it could be applied over large distances in space.
If you have an engineering project you would like to discuss with us, contact us and our World famous free space optics designers will be happy to help you. Free space optics is one of the areas where we have personnel with experience from companies and institutions such as the NASA, Fraunhofer Institute, Boeing. Our designers hold critical patents and earned innovation awards.
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