1. Superior light performance
When glass is used to make optical fibers – the basis for flexible and rigid light guides – you can expect the very highest light-delivery performance. The high color rendering index of glass means that the wavelength of light entering and exiting the fiber or light guide changes very little. This gives health care practitioners the most true-to-life color for viewing tissue. The large numerical aperture of up to 1 available from glass fibers also allows more light to enter and travel down the fibers, producing larger fields of view and enabling a smaller fiber bundle to illuminate larger areas. In contrast, due to limiting material characteristics, polymer optical fibers can only achieve a maximum aperture of 0.5.
2. Strong yet bendable
Glass is uniquely strong yet becomes flexible when very thin. This combination of properties means that glass fibers for light guides can be made as thin as 30 microns in diameter (less than half as thick as a human hair). These small diameters enable the tight bending radii that are needed for highly flexible movement in endoscopes. In contrast, the very thin polymer fibers typically have a diameter of 500 microns, and in most cases measure 1 mm (1,000 microns) or more. For imaging applications, individual glass fibers can be as small as 4 microns in diameter, enabling a high pixel resolution. This means that a detailed, clear image can travel from one end of the fiber bundle to the other.