How Is Active Optical Changing Fiber Optic Design?

Every year, more businesses are turning to fiber optic solutions. As more applications require faster transmission rates with higher accuracy across longer distances, more design engineers, data managers, and industry SMEs question how new fiber optic applications such as Active Optical Cables differ from conventional fiber optic cables. 

Nortech Systems’ Active Optical Xtreme (AOXTM)is the newest small form-factor hybrid solution in the family of Active Optical Cable assemblies. 

twisted copper wire bundles with ends stripped

What are the Challenges of Conventional Copper Wiring

Copper cable technology is being pushed to its limitations as InfiniBand data speeds climb and data center clusters expand in size. The InfiniBand Double Data Rate (DDR) of 20 Gigabits per second (Gbps) limits the span of traditional copper cable to 8 to 10 meters.

Because of the bandwidth-distance limits of copper cable installations, engineers frequently incorporate amplifiers, signal regenerators, frame grabbers, signal redrivers, retimers, and other similar devices inside the system assembly.

Copper passive cables are bulky and numerous, making physical data center management challenging and susceptible to electromagnetic interference (EMI), restricting copper’s performance and dependability.

IT specialist connecting new fiber optic design cables to network equipment

What is Active Optical?

Active Optical Cable (AOC) is a hybrid design technique that employs optical fiber “between the connectors” to deliver the same electrical bandwidth as would be found in a far larger number of copper cables. Active optical cable (AOC) is primarily deployed for long-reach multi-lane data transfer, control and power delivery. Ordinarily, optical communication data transmission belongs to the passive component, but AOC is an exception. An AOC consists of multimode optical fibers, control chips, optical transceivers and receivers, and modules.

 AOC utilizes electrical-to-optical conversion on the cable ends to increase the cable’s speed and distance performance while maintaining compatibility with a conventional electrical system design.

Users now expect more information at their fingertips; thus, our communications infrastructure will have to be faster, and AOC is one of the best ways to tackle this problem.

AOC has several benefits over direct attach copper cable for data transfer. These benefits include reduced weight, higher bandwidth, lower power consumption, lower connectivity loss, EMI immunity, and flexibility. AOC is becoming widely employed in various applications, including long-reach devices and data-hungry systems.

Active optical cables transcend some of the constraints of passive cables by incorporating optics and electronics into the connections. Whereas passive cables are typically copper-based, active cables can employ copper wire and fiber optics to deliver an all-in-one solution. 

smart factory assembly line equipped with fiber optic design sensors and pneumatic equipment

Why Use Active Optical?

Active optical cables were originally developed to replace copper in data centers and high-performance computing (HPC) operations. Despite the numerous drawbacks, copper wire has been the standard for decades, and the concept of AOC cables seemed almost too fantastic. 

The advantages of AOC cables, on the other hand, make their predecessor appear archaic and unsophisticated, and they break through the limitations of copper passive cables while also playing a pivotal role in high-speed data transfer.

In high-speed AOCs, Vertical-Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL) technology is combined with Transceiver and Receiver capabilities inside the cable assembly to accomplish Electrical-to-Optical and Optical-to-Electrical (E-O/O-E) data conversion across tactical fiber-optic channels with very minimal data loss.

AOCs include copper power and control lines designed to optimize power supply across distance, decrease voltage drop, and provide a very flexible and rugged cable. The embedded electronics are protected by tough and resilient connector and back shell arrangements.

Power Up With the Latest Interconnect Technology

Active optical cables provide optimal value for machine vision and other intelligent sensing devices. AOC’s higher bandwidth, reduced weight and system footprint, extremely low data latency, and near immunity to electromagnetic interference will enable you to streamline cable designs, shrink inventories, and reduce supply chain risk. Reach out to Nortech Systems today for more information on AOC design and applications for your organization.C