The Amazing Fiber-Man

He swings through the urban jungle on cobwebs, wears a tight red suit and chases criminals: Spider-Man is one of the most popular and commercially successful superheroes in the Marvel universe. You might know him from comic books, movies, television series or video games. On August 1, fans worldwide celebrate the scarlet spider’s first appearance in a comic book in 1962.

He swings through the urban jungle on cobwebs, wears a tight red suit and chases criminals: Spider-Man is one of the most popular and commercially successful superheroes in the Marvel universe. You might know him from comic books, movies, television series or video games. On August 1, fans worldwide celebrate the scarlet spider’s first appearance in a comic book in 1962.

Spider-Man tells the story of the orphan Peter Parker who is raised by his aunt and uncle in New York City. After the bite of a radioactive spider, he develops special abilities: Suddenly, he can shoot spider webs from his wrists, hold on to smooth surfaces and use his “spider sense” to spot dangers. At this point you might be wondering: What does this have to do with SCHOTT?

To answer this question, we take a trip to the headquarters of SCHOTT Lighting and Imaging in Mainz, Germany. Here, glass rods are heated to several hundred degrees to create optical fibers. This is a complex process because the rods consist of a cladding tube and a core made of different types of glass. The speed at which the rods are drawn determines how thin the fibers become.

When people think of fiber optics, they often think of the fibers used to transfer laser light in telecommunications. But the same capabilities that ensure a signal can be transported for miles can also bring light and images around a corner, into a confined space or into a hot, dark or difficult to reach place. That is why glass fibers play an important role in the transmission of light and images. These fibers have much in common with Peter Parker’s cobwebs.

Glass fibers - made in Mainz, photos: SCHOTT.

A bit far-fetched? Quite the opposite. An optical fiber is an extremely thin, flexible and transparent piece of glass that is often underestimated. Its diameter can be a tenth of a human hair. Nevertheless, glass fiber is more robust than one would think. It can withstand temperatures up to 350 °C and be bent into tight radii. If it falls to the ground, it doesn’t break — unlike a water glass. Also, like Peter Parker’s spider webs, fibers are strong when combined: One rarely sees the superhero shooting individual threads! Likewise, glass fibers are combined into bundles with each fiber corresponding to a light or image point.

In the factory, it is not only the glass fibers that hold together — but also the people. The production employees are our everyday heroes and hidden champions as they keep production running even in times of crisis.

August 1st, 2020

Kontakt

Dr. Haike Frank
Lighting & Imaging
SCHOTT AG

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