Acceptance Angle in Fiber Optics
The acceptance angle of an optical fiber is defined based on a purely geometrical consideration (ray optics): it is the maximum angle of a ray (against the fiber axis) hitting the fiber core which allows the incident light to be guided by the core. The sine of that acceptable angle is called the numerical aperture, and it is essentially determined by the refractive index contrast between core and cladding of the fiber, assuming that the incident beam comes from air or vacuum:
Here, ncore and ncladding are the refractive indices of core and cladding, respectively, and n0 is the refractive index of the medium around the fiber, which is close to 1 in case of air.
The concept of ray optics is not fully appropriate for describing the operation details of optical fibers, because wave aspects are important – particularly for fibers with small core such as single-mode fibers. A real light beam (for example, a laser beam) is not well resembled by a ray, since it inevitably has both a finite beam radius and a finite beam divergence. Therefore, there is in reality not a well-defined transition between guidance and non-guidance, when a beam angle is varied. However, the acceptance angle gives at least some estimate concerning how large an incidence angle may be for efficiently launching light.
Note that the term acceptance angle also plays a role in nonlinear optics – see the article on critical phase matching.
See also: numerical aperture, fibers, waveguides, total internal reflection, fiber optics
and other articles in the category fiber optics and waveguides
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