This is a question that has bothered me for a while. In the past many years, no company has been able to develop a material that can transmit light nearly as well as fiber optic glass, or at least not as cheaply.

After doing a bit of research, I found that although there is fiber optic plastic, the quality is considerably poor when compared to the standard glass medium. I would assume that developing a highly-transparent, high-quality plastic that is cheap to manufacture would be considered the holy grail of data communication (not to mention, quite profitable.)

Why is it that in the many, many years that fiber optic data transmission has been around, no one has been able to develop such a form of plastic? In fact, I've never even heard of such research making headlines on the more common tech news sites.

  • $\begingroup$ I think it's fine right here, so don't worry about that aspect. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Feb 27 '13 at 1:49

In fact, I've never even heard of such research making headlines on the more common tech news sites.

Tasks like that are called deveopment, not research, normally. And no industrial company will talk much about such work if its not sucessful. In fact there are such organic fibers for minor purposes (eg the Laserjets II and III used such a fiber to send a synchronising signal from the laser scanning unit down to the control board, for about 10 inches. 30 years ago one could buy such fibres for experiments at radio shack) If You read some literature on optical fibres, You will learn that low scattering is the grail. And plastics scatter a lot, for very basic reasons of polymer structure. Try to look throug a plate of acrylic glass "edge on", and You will understand.

  • $\begingroup$ Good answer, but not perfect. I suspect there is room for more detail on the specific causes and some of the other effects (refractive index matters as does the specific absorption in the infra red range used for most data transmission). $\endgroup$
    – matt_black
    Feb 27 '13 at 23:23

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