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Student laboratory experiments exploring optical fibre communications, systems eye diagrams and bit error rates

Walsh, D.J. and Moodie, D. and Mauchline, I.S. and Conner, S. and Johnstone, W. and Culshaw, B. (2005) Student laboratory experiments exploring optical fibre communications, systems eye diagrams and bit error rates. In: Proceedings of SPIE Opto-Ireland 2005. SPIE, p. 605. ISBN 0819458120

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Abstract

Optical fibre communications has proved to be one of the key application areas, which created, and ultimately propelled the global growth of the photonics industry over the last twenty years. Consequently the teaching of the principles of optical fibre communications has become integral to many university courses covering photonics technology. However to reinforce the fundamental principles and key technical issues students examine in their lecture courses and to develop their experimental skills, it is critical that the students also obtain hands-on practical experience of photonics components, instruments and systems in an associated teaching laboratory. In recognition of this need OptoSci, in collaboration with university academics, commercially developed a fibre optic communications based educational package (ED-COM). This educator kit enables students to; investigate the characteristics of the individual communications system components (sources, transmitters, fibre, receiver), examine and interpret the overall system performance limitations imposed by attenuation and dispersion, conduct system design and performance analysis. To further enhance the experimental programme examined in the fibre optic communications kit, an extension module to ED-COM has recently been introduced examining one of the most significant performance parameters of digital communications systems, the bit error rate (BER). This add-on module, BER(COM), enables students to generate, evaluate and investigate signal quality trends by examining eye patterns, and explore the bit-rate limitations imposed on communication systems by noise, attenuation and dispersion. This paper will examine the educational objectives, background theory, and typical results for these educator kits, with particular emphasis on BER(COM).