Have you ever seen an exceptionally dazzling star field in a ceiling and wondered, “How did they make that?” and “Where can I get one of those?”
The easy answer to that first question is Fiber Optic Lights!
Today, fiber optic lights have increasingly become a decorator’s staple because not only do they add extra elements of color and glow to a lighting system, but they are also extremely eye-catching. They often serve as statement pieces in the décor and lighting of any space.
If you want to find out more about the creation of plastic optical fiber cables, click here
Fiber optics is a very noteworthy invention in human history. As of today, more than 2 billion kilometers of optical fiber are deployed around the world. Fiber optics is taking the world by storm and one of the forms it has taken center stage in is fiber optic lights.
Fiber optic lights are a special type of lighting that makes use of optical fiber to deliver light from a source to a specific remote location. Optical fiber is a flexible, transparent fiber made by drawing glass (silica) or plastic to a diameter slightly thicker than that of a human hair strand. Fiber optic lights consist of a core and a coating or cladding that trap light and allow it to travel long distances without the disruptions that regular metal-wired lights are oftentimes subject to.
Remember your high school Physics class when your teacher dunked a pencil into a cup of water to demonstrate how refraction works? Well, that same process of refraction has a lot to do with how light travels through and is emitted from optical fibers in a fiber optic lighting system.
Now let’s have a little Physics class recap.
Refraction is the bending of light as it moves through one transparent source into another. It is through this mechanism that we can have things like lenses, magnifying glasses, prisms, rainbows, and even something as fundamental as our eyesight.
The process of refraction is governed by Snell’s law: n1sinθ1=n2sinθ2, and n in this equation denotes the refractive index (RI)—the measure of refraction, where n1 is the incident index (index of refraction of the incident medium) and n2 is the refracted index (index of refraction of the refractive medium).
Now, to explain how refraction works in fiber optic lights, let’s use the illustration of air and water. Air has an RI of 1.0 and water has an RI of 1.33. If a ray of light travels through water and encounters a medium with a lower RI (e.g. air), the light will refract or bend out of the water, as long as the angle of incidence is below a specific value called the critical angle.
If the angle of incidence is above this critical angle, the ray of light will reflect back into the water. This phenomenon is known as Total Internal Reflection (TIR), and this is the process through which light propagation through optical fibers occurs.
In TIR, if the ray of light were to move from air to water (lower RI medium to higher RI medium), the light will always refract or bend into the higher RI.
Here’s how all of this applies to fiber optic lights.
The core of fiber optic lights always has a higher RI while the cladding or coating has a lower RI. So applying the mechanisms of TIR explained above, when light from a source such as a laser or LED travels through the optical fiber, the light rays undergo repeated refractions through the core of the fiber at angles greater than the critical angle. On its own without the cladding, light traveling through the fiber core would reflect in a scattered manner.
This is why the cladding is crucial. The cladding is what aligns the movement of light through the core. The light rays traveling down the core are reflected back by the interface of the higher RI of the core and the lower RI of the cladding. The cladding layer is essentially what makes the lights fiber optic lights.
There is also a second coating layer that has a lower RI than the cladding. The essence of this is to ensure that any stray light that makes its way out of the cladding is still reflected back into the core. Oftentimes, especially if the lighting is going to run through irregular environments like underwater (e.g. pool lighting), the fiber optic lights are wrapped in a strong covering, or they will have multiple cores and more protective layers.
Here is an overview of the 3 top-rated fiber optic ceiling lights from Amazon.com:
Site rating: 4.4 out of 5 (146 ratings)
These fiber optic car ceiling lights are smart app-controlled; the app is called "Magic Light" and is compatible with all kinds of smartphones, including Android and iOS. Thus, you don’t have to worry about losing the remote. The lights can also be synched to music and altered to reflect different bright colors and patterns. The fiber optic ceiling lights are very easy to install and durable.
Site rating: 4.6 out of 5 (164 ratings)
The second fiber optic ceiling lights on this list are suitable for both car ceiling and indoor ceiling use. They can also be controlled by an Android or iOS app or by remote. They are perfect for cars, bedrooms, home theaters, hotels, restaurants, entertainment centers, movie theaters, and more. These fiber optic ceiling lights are a little complex to install but are 100% worth it because they look seamlessly clean when installed.
Site rating: 4.6 out of 5 (234 ratings)
The final fiber optic ceiling lights on this list create a super meteor effect when installed and lit up. They are also controlled by either app or remote, music-connectable, and applicable in numerous settings. Notable as well is the seller’s incredible customer service. These fiber optic ceiling lights also come with an installation kit to simplify the process.