When shopping for a backlighting solution to a keypad or touchscreen device, you’ll probably come across fiber optic. It’s one of the most popular backlighting solutions for these and other electrical applications. Fiber optic backlighting provides even illumination to protect against dark or dim spots. What is fiber optic backlighting exactly, and how does it work?

The Basics of Fiber Optic Backlighting

Also known as optical fiber backlighting, fiber optic backlighting is a backlighting solution for electrical applications that involves the use of glass fibers. Fiber optic is a unique backlighting solution that’s defined by its use of glass fibers. The glass fibers — each of measuring about the same width as a strand of human hair — are bound togehter. The bundled glass fibers are then installed in keypads and touchscreen devices to provide backlighting.

How Fiber Optic Backlighting Works

Being that fiber optic backlighting doesn’t have any bulbs, you might be wondering how it’s able to illuminate keypads and touchscreen devices. Well, fiber optic backlighting doesn’t necessary create light. Rather, it propagates light produced by light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Fiber optic backlighting can’t be used by itself. For it to illuminate a keypad or touchscreen device, it must be used in conjunction with LEDs. The LEDs create light that travels through the fiber optic strands. Therefore, there’s no need for the fiber optic strands to produce their own light. They simply distribute the light produced by the adjacent LEDs.

Benefits of Fiber Optic Backlighting

Since it’s used in conjunction with LEDs, fiber optic backlighting is very energy efficient. It consumes less energy than nearly all other backlighting solutions, including electroluminescent (EL). Most fiber optic backlighting solutions consume just 20 to 50 mA of power when used with LEDs.

Fiber optic backlighting also lasts for a very long time. In fact, the fiber optic strands themselves rarely degrade — even when used for many years. And the LEDs used with fiber optic backlighting last longer than other bulbs. Most LEDs have a lifespan of about 100,000 hours, so you don’t have to worry about them dying or fading anytime soon.

Another benefit of fiber optic backlighting is even light distribution. Some keypads and touchscreen devices suffer from brightness problems. An area of a keypad or touchscreen device may be brighter than another area of the same keypad or touchscreen device. Fiber optic backlighting prevents problems such as this by evenly distributing the light across the keypad or touchscreen device.