Contributions to Science, Vol 7, No 2 (2011)

Transmission of light by fibers for optical communication. On the Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Charles Kuen Kao, Willard S. Boyle, and George E. Smith (I)

Santiago Vallmitjana


The Nobel Prize in Physics 2009 was divided, one half awarded to Charles Kuen Kao for innovative achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communications (the other half was jointly awarded to Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith). This article describes the scientific and technological background of the 1960s, and how, in 1966, from a publication from Kuen Kao, great expectations were made regarding the possibility of sending information with a laser through optical fibers. The basic functioning of optical fibers and their related technology is described, as well as the various difficulties that were overcome during the following years in order to attain reliable communication systems, such as the ones today.

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ISSN: 2013-410X (electronic edition); 1575-6343 (print edition)