Fibercore is built on a peerless heritage of industry-leading fiber optics research and development. From the earliest days of commercialized fiber optics as applied to communications, we have been pushing fiber optic science, technology and manufacturing ever forward, far beyond that original application.
More than six decades ago, and through inspiration from his mentor, Professor Alec Gambling, Professor David Payne, director of the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre, had the insight that fiber optics would eventually play a leading role in sensing and data, not just communications. Knighted Sir David Payne in 2013, it was his early work in fiber optic design and fabrication that would lead to today’s Fibercore, and we continue to share his vision.
When you log on to the internet, when you stream a movie, travel in a modern aircraft, when you have an endoscopic surgery, when you marvel at humankind’s ability to remotely explore space and other worlds—Fibercore innovation plays a role in all of that and much more.
There are many strands to the Fibercore story, but they all share a common focus. We bring new possibilities to light.
Fibercore was established in 1982 as a business venture spun out from the world-renowned Optical Fibre Group of the University of Southampton. Following the invention of the laser, researchers at the University had been working since the mid-1960s to develop optical fibers to enable long-distance light communication. By the mid-1970s, Professor Payne had developed new fabrication techniques that would revolutionize communication systems worldwide. For example, the chemical vapor deposition process used in the manufacture of most optical fibers is based on pioneering work begun at Southampton in the late 1970s.
By the early 1980s, he and the Optical Fibre Group were taking advantage of their unique fiber manufacturing capabilities to perform advanced research and develop new fiber designs and manufacturing technologies. Through this work, the group led the way toward a much broader conception of communications, including the transport and analysis of different types of data and the advent of optical fiber-based sensors for a variety of applications.
Other researchers investigating optical fiber properties and potential applications were limited by the need to rely on prototype production fibers. Soon, many of these researchers were turning to the Optical Fibre Group for samples of their specialized fibers. Commercial enterprises, too, began depending on the University of Southampton to supply fibers for use in specialized components or simply to further their knowledge in optical fiber capabilities.
The commercial opportunities for supplying these specialty fibers to commercial markets became evident. Fibercore was created on a foundation of advanced research, expert manufacturing, and committed partnerships for driving progress in optical fiber technologies and applications. We are proud that Fibercore is still the byword for quality, innovation, and unrivaled technical support—values established in the work begun at Southampton more than five decades ago.
Growth & Innovation
At its founding, Fibercore was largely staffed by University of Southampton students applying the knowledge and manufacturing capabilities of Professor Payne’s Optical Fibre Group to make optical fibers and earn some cash in their spare time. As demand grew, staff from York VSOP (ventures and specialty optical products) worked on the university campus to manufacture fibers commercially, an arrangement that continued to develop until 2003, when Fibercore established it’s current development and manufacturing facility at Southampton’s Chilworth Science Park.
The expertise and innovations developed in the university’s Optical Fibre Group led to the establishment of the interdisciplinary Optoelectronics Research Centre, created by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in 1989. The Optoelectronics Research Centre, the University of Southampton and Fibercore continue to maintain tight collaborative relationships to advance the state of the art.
It is no exaggeration to say that the origins of Fibercore go back to the infancy of fiber optic communications, and that Fibercore has been intimately involved in the birth and continuing development of specialized fiber sensing technologies that enable far more than basic communications. Fibercore has led the development and manufacturing of specialized fibers from the very beginning.
The first success, in 1982, was the development of spun low-birefringent fiber. This fiber revolutionized the ability of electricity providers to monitor and balance their distribution networks by enabling sensors that are much smaller, more responsive to transients, immune to electrical interference and far safer compared to the potentially explosive transformer-based sensors used previously.
Further development led to bow-tie polarization-maintaining high-birefringent fibers. These fibers allow for the principles of interferometry to be used in a wide range of applications—for example, solid-state fiber optic gyroscopes. Used in aviation, aerospace, nautical, defense and surveying applications, these gyroscopes are far more accurate, responsive and reliable than conventional gyroscope designs. Likely the first commercially available fiber of its kind, the bow-tie polarization-maintaining fiber developed in 1983 is still produced today in quantities on the order of 1,000 kilometers per month. An elliptically birefringent version was introduced in 1989.
In 1987, our neodymium-doped fiber was among the first—if not the first—commercially available laser fiber. Today, this technology is in widespread, mainstream use in telecom, cable TV, laser and many other applications. By introducing neodymium ions into the core of optical fiber, a laser cavity is created that—compared to a conventional laser—is much smaller in cross-section, can be much longer, and has the unique ability to guide the laser directionally. It also offers a very low lasing threshold, even when pumped with a low-cost compact disc-type laser diode.
Erbium- and erbium/ytterbium-doped fibers were offered commercially for the first time in 1988 and 1993, further extending the capabilities and applications for laser fiber. Our erbium-doped fiber was the world’s first fiber that can generate its own light to amplify telecommunication signals in the 1550 nm window. In the same timeframe, the University of Southampton created the world’s first erbium-doped fiber amplifier, a technology that now forms the backbone of the internet.
Erbium-doped fiber also revolutionized video distribution, enabling high-bandwidth signals to be distributed widely and affordably by using very large amplifiers to generate high-wattage signals, and then splitting signals for general distribution without saturating the available bandwidth. These fibers provided an elegant solution at the right moment in history, helping to usher in a new Information Age that is still changing the world in the time of 5G technology. Without realizing it, billions of people enjoy the benefits of these innovations every day.
Other Fibercore innovations include boron-doped photosensitive fiber (1998) for rapid formation of high-reflectivity fiber Bragg gratings (FBGs) without hydrogenation. All-silica cladding pump fibers (1999) enable easier handling plus greatly improved reliability and temperature stability in applications with high-wattage pump energy. 50μm low-loss and highly bend-insensitive single-mode fibers (2002) vastly improve the sensitivity of acoustic sensing applications while allowing the use of tightly wound transducers. Pure silica-core single-mode fiber (2009) maintains performance in ultraviolet applications as well as exposure to hydrogen or ionizing radiation.
Building on all of these successes, the 2010s, were a particularly productive period for Fibercore innovation and growth. Our manufacturing capabilities have grown tenfold, and we have brought world-class manufacturing philosophies to projects that for other manufacturers are little more than scaled-up laboratory processes. We have continued to reintroduce improved versions of our most popular fibers, new high-temperature coatings, through-the-coating FBGs, complete cables designed for harsh oil & gas environments, multi-core fibers, a variety of specialized fibers for communications applications, and more.
You can find all the details on our product pages. And look for even more innovations and refinements to come in the next decade.
Changing the World
Through five decades, Fibercore has contributed to monumental changes in technology and its impacts on people and society. If you use the internet or stream movies, chances are that Fibercore is in the signal chain. If you fly, chances are that Fibercore is in the navigation, stabilization, and other systems. If you benefit from GPS, mapping, weather, or other satellites, chances are that Fibercore is helping keep it properly oriented and solar-powered.
Our fibers are found everywhere from the ocean depths to the surface of Mars. They’re used to help protect soldiers and catch drug-runners. They’re sent down boreholes to help maximize oil and gas production and sent into the human body to help find tumors, perform surgeries and identify the perfect location to place life-preserving stents. Fibercore is in all of these places, and so many more.
And to get to those places, it takes more than being an innovator. It takes commercial stamina. Once you have invented a new way to solve a new problem, you have to be there for your customers, providing all the manufacturing capabilities and support they need to bring their applications into full commercial being and to scale up to full production and profitability—now and tomorrow. That’s the real story of Fibercore.
We’ve been there for our customers since the beginning. We’ve helped them develop extraordinary new capabilities along the way. We’ve met their production and technical support needs at every stage. And we’ll be doing all of that for as long as optical fibers matter.
Celebrating Nearly 40 Years of Technical Expertise
1982: Spun Low-Birefringence Fiber
1983: Bow-Tie Polarization Maintaining Fiber & Zing™ Polarizing Fiber
1987: Neodymium-Doped Fiber
1988: Erbium-Doped Fiber
1989: Spun Bow-Tie & Elliptically Birefringent Fiber
1993: Erbium-Ytterbium Co-Doped Fiber
1998: Intrinsically Photosensitive Boron Co-Doped Fiber
1999: All-Silica, ‘Cladding Pump’ Rare-Earth-Doped Fiber
2002: 50μm Low-Loss & Highly Bend-Insensitive Single-Mode Fiber
2009: Pure Silica-Core Single-Mode Fiber for Use In UV-Visible Applications
2010: Reintroduction of Improved Zing™ Polarizing Fiber
2012: Reintroduction of Improved Spun Bow-Tie & Elliptically-Birefringent Fiber
2013: High-Temperature Coatings
Pure Silica Core Fiber
Portfolio for Oil & Gas Industry
2014: Acquisition of Fibertronix
Cables for Oil & Gas
Double Clad Passive Fiber
2016: Completion of Hydrogen Chamber
2017: Silicon Photonic Fiber
High NA / High Bandwidth Fiber
2018: New Gyroscope Fibers
New 7-Core Fiber