From membrane switches and human machine interfaces (HMIs) to liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) and other display devices, backlighting is used in a variety of applications. It’s purpose is to illuminate specific areas of the device and improve visibility and/or create an image. While there are several different types of backlighting available, fiber optic has become increasingly popular among companies and consumers in recent years. So, what is fiber optic backlighting, and how does it work?

Overview of Fiber Optic Backlighting

Fiber optic refers to a type of flexible, transparent fiber that’s compromised of thin strands of glass or plastic, each of which is about the same diameter as a strand of human hair. Fiber optic cables are commonly used by telecommunications companies to send data over long distances at fast speeds. Google Fiber, for example, is the search engine giant’s own fiber optic broadband internet service that delivers speeds up to 1 gigabit per second — about 100 times faster than conventional broadband. In addition to providing high-speed internet, however, fiber optic is also used for backlighting.

Normally, fiber optic is used in conjunction with another backlighting solution, such as light-emitting diode (LED). The LED is the actual bulb that creates light, but it’s connected to the glass or plastic fibers to propagate and evenly distribute the light under the overlay. As the LED produces light, the light passes through the optical fibers to increase visibility of the respective device.

Why Choose Fiber Optic Backlighting

Fiber optic backlighting offers several benefits, one of which is energy efficiency. Even when fiber optic is used with LED, it’s still one of the most energy-efficient backlighting solutions available. You can expect fiber optic backlighting to draw just 20 to 50 mA of power. That makes it a smart financial investment, as it lowers the cost of businesses’ electric bills.

Not only is fiber optic backlighting energy efficient, but it also has a long life expectancy. A typical LED-powered fiber optic backlight will last for 100,000 hours. This means businesses will spend less time, energy and money replacing blown backlight bulbs or the devices in which they are installed.

Other Backlighting Solutions

Of course, fiber optic is only one option to consider when choosing backlighting. Other backlighting solutions include LED and electroluminescent (EL). Fiber optic is certainly an attractive option given its energy-efficient properties and long life expectancy, but businesses should consider all options to determine which backlighting technology is right their needs.