Frequently Asked Questions
Have questions about Versalume™ INC or Corning® Fibrance® Light-Diffusing Fiber? We've got answers.
Who is Versalume INC?
Versalume is a company headquartered in Silicon Valley, California, focused on developing smart, integrated products and solutions based on Corning Fibrance Light-Diffusing Fiber.
What is Fibrance?
Fibrance is a very thin and highly flexible light-diffusing fiber for colorful ambient or decorative lighting over long runs. Fibrance is so thin and flexible that it can be embedded in confined spaces where bulkier lighting elements cannot fit. Like other Corning optical fibers, Fibrance has a pure glass core which relays and diffuses light from single or multicolor laser sources with high fidelity over very long lengths.
How does Fibrance work?
Nanostructures are incorporated into the glass optical fiber core during manufacturing that scatters light very predictably and uniformly in all directions.
Why is Fibrance different from traditional fiber lighting solutions?
Fibrance is made of very thin, optically-pure glass containing nanostructures resulting in a very long, uniform, and flexible light-diffusing fiber. The glass core renders bright, clear color from a laser source over a wide range of visible and invisible wavelengths, imparting no perceptible color or color fade. Fibrance is thin, flexible, and colorless, using processes similar to the manufacturing of long-distance communication fibers. Fibrance can be bent or wrapped in lines, curves, or in three dimensions, lighting freeform objects with uniform, continuous illumination. Fibrance is playful and pleasing when viewed directly – almost vanishing when the laser has been deactivated.
How does Fibrance compare with EL wire?
EL wire produces dim light of a fixed color, requires high voltage for long runs, can be noisy, and deteriorates over time, especially if flexed repeatedly. Fibrance stays very bright (it's powered by a laser). Even modest lasers will be visible in daylight powered by a small battery for hours. Multi-color lasers can render a wide range of vibrant colors or tunable whites. White at specific color temperatures can also be produced using phosphorus buffers. Fibrance is strong, silent, cool, and nonconductive. It’s durable and can be shaped into freeform shapes. Flexing will not cause deterioration like EL wire.
Plastic fiber and waveguides have “hot spots” at attachment points where the light leaks out. Does Fibrance have this problem?
Fibrance guides light in a glass core confined in a polymer cladding, resulting in a very high numerical aperture light-guide. Since the light scattering features of Fibrance are in the glass core and not on the surface, it can be threaded, laminated, or co-extruded or anchored in slots, channels, or grooves with clips, wraps, or adhesives - without creating “hot spots,” that are typically seen in solution where the light scattering features are on the surface of the light-guide.
How is Fibrance powered?
Fibrance diffuses light from laser light sources attached at one or both ends.
What is a laser diode, and how does it work?
A laser diode is a tiny semiconductor laser used in CD/DVD/Blu-ray drives, barcode readers, laser pointers, laser mice, etc. They are made of similar materials to LEDs. Laser diodes require a stable DC current of 10's to 100's of mA (depending on power) at 3 to 8V (depending on color) from either a battery,AC adapter, or another circuit. Lasers emit coherent light with low angular spread from a microscopic small aperture - ideal for coupling to Fibrance which has a very small diameter - typically through a small lens.
Are lasers safe? What precautions are necessary when working with lasers?
Lasers that illuminate Fibrance produce intense light that can be potentially hazardous to human eyes. Precautions should be taken to avoid both direct and indirect exposure. Most consumer products incorporating Fibrance will employ FDA/CDRH Class II/ICE class 2 or FDA/CDRH Class IIIa/IEC Class 3R lasers operating around 20-30mW launch power. Lasers in this class do not require barriers or interlocks to comply with regulatory requirements but must be labeled in accordance with regulatory requirements applicable in the jurisdictions they are sold. Fibrance can operate very brightly at output power significantly above 30mW launch power, FDA/CDRH Class II/ICE class 3B or class 4. Lasers in this class require containment barriers and safety interlocks to ensure that hazardous radiation levels are prevented from causing damage to eyes or skin. A laser safety hazard assessment is recommended by an accredited consultant to ensure that systems incorporate features that ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
Can a LED be used with Fibrance?
Lasers couple light much more efficiently into Fibrance (>80 percent) than LEDs because LED light diverges too quickly to allow efficient coupling into Fibrance due to its thickness (<0.25mm).
How long can a continuous length of Fibrance be?
100m of Fibrance powered from both ends by two green 100mW lasers will exceed 0.1 candela. Higher power lasers can glow brighter or go further.
What shapes can I make with Fibrance and how tightly can Fibrance be bent?
Fibrance is both flexible and strong. It can be bent over ten full turns to a 10mm radius without causing bright spots or glare or significantly degrading reliability. Fibrance should never be tied in a tight knot. Excessive stress will cause the glass core to break. Fibrance should be protected from abrasion with a protective jacket or polymer buffer. Fibrance can be run in straight lengths, curves, or 3D freeform shapes to decorate, accent, or trim objects. It can be used for signage, demarcation, decoration, and as a way-finding tool.
How uniformly does Fibrance diffuse light?
Fibrance diffuses light uniformly around its circumference. Like any other light diffusing fiber or waveguide, brightness decays exponentially with distance from the laser source. Fibrance appears fairly uniform over one diffusion length because our eyes respond logarithmically to brightness differences. A lighting design layout can be optimized for illumination efficiency or uniformity over length by appropriate choice of diffusion length. Illuminating with a laser at both ends or adding a mirror will make emission even more uniform and even brighter.
When I am looking at Fibrance that is attached to a laser, I notice a sparkling-like effect. What is that due to?
That effect is called “speckle” - spatially random interference of coherent laser light. The effect is most noticeable when slowly moving your head side to side from a distance. The speckle can be easily reduced (or even increased) by pulse width modulating (PWM) the laser source electronically.
What are 1, 5 and 10 meter diffusion length fibers? Do you offer other diffusion lengths?
Diffusion length defines the distance over which 90 percent of laser light is diffused through side emission (with 10:1 brightness ratio over one diffusion length). Diffusion length is determined by careful control of nanostructure concentration introduced into the glass core during manufacture. Diffusion lengths of 1m, 5m, and 10m are offered off the shelf. Custom diffusion lengths can be formulated from just a few cm to over 50m for specific customer applications. A discussion with Versalume’s applications team is recommended for developing a custom solution.
How is color generated in Fibrance?
Fibrance cores are made of transparent ultra-pure silica used in Corning communications fibers which contribute no color of their own. Fibrance renders the color of the coupled laser source with high fidelity and will blend colors combined to produce compound colors in a wide color range. If a pair of colors is injected at opposite ends of a Fibrance fiber, the colors will blend to produce a vibrant wave over length.
Why does Fibrance look so bright?
Fibrance captures intense laser light and relays it down a thin optical waveguide containing diffusing nanostructures. Light diffusion from the core produces a very high surface luminance and a very uniform luminous intensity distributed evenly along its length without glare. At close distance, the eye can resolve Fibrance with very high luminance, making Fibrance stand out very distinctly.
Fibrance is made of glass - does that make it fragile?
Corning has manufactured fibers for optical communications for decades and understands the inherent strength, flexibility, and durability of glass. As long as tight knots, kinks, or nicks are avoided and the glass core and cladding are protected, Fibrance will perform to expectations.
Is Fibrance durable enough to be used outside?
Bare, unjacketed Fibrance is not UV or moisture resistant. Fibrance should be encapsulated with a moisture- and UV-resistant housing or buffer that protects the fiber from moisture and UV light or physical abuse exceeding specifications. This can be implemented using a tube or a housing made of weather- and UV-resistant transparent or translucent material with mechanical properties optimized for the environment. PVC is unsuitable for outdoor use. A discussion with Versalume's engineering team is highly recommended to help select and qualify encapsulant materials that are chemically, optically, and mechanically compatible for any application.
Is Fibrance durable enough for use in extreme temperatures?
Fibrance is stable from -40 to +65C and can survive short excursions to much higher temperatures to facilitate integration, lamination, or co-extrusion processes. The properties of any encapsulant material must also be considered when examining high or low temperature applications. A discussion with Versalume's engineering team is highly recommended to help select and qualify encapsulant materials that are chemically, optically, and mechanically compatible.
What encapsulants work with Fibrance?
PVC has been tested for extended use from -20 to 65C as a loose buffer encapsulant but is not UV or weather-resistant or suitable above 65C. Alternative materials are available to enhance UV and weather resistance and improve flame retardation, including low flammability zero halogen materials. Encapsulant materials with thermal expansion coefficient's much higher than glass must not induce compressive or shear forces that might tear or delaminate the cladding layer. Isolating Fibrance with a small air gap is normally sufficient to avoid excess stress on Fibrance inside a protective encapsulant. A discussion with Versalume's engineering team is highly recommended to help select and qualify encapsulant materials that are chemically, optically, and mechanically compatible.
What is the mechanical strength of Fibrance and how should it be anchored?
All bare, un-buffered Fibrance fiber is proof tested to 100kpsi to ensure flaws are screened out from the product. Anchoring inside a ferrule with an approved adhesive over 5 to 10mm adhesive bond length will provide 3 to 5N of pull strength. If more pull strength at an anchor point is needed in process or during life a long bond line or a post anchor is recommended to distribute stress evenly. Isolating stress by using a loose buffer or loose encapsulant is also highly recommended to prevent compressive or sheer forces that might tear or delaminate the cladding layer.
What are the best options for mounting Fibrance to a surface?
Fibrance is very forgiving and versatile. The range of potential options for materials, encapsulation attachment, or anchoring is enormous. Fibrance should be loosely buffered to prevent compressive (pinch) or sheer forces that might tear or delaminate the cladding layer. Buffers or encapsulants can have a variety of cross sectional shapes, properties, or textures to facilitate integration into the product. Fibrance can be threaded or extruded into a tube or welt with a flat wing that can be glued, stapled, stitched, or adhered to a surface using Very High Bond (VHB) tape. Fibrance can be wrapped around anchor pegs or posts or radiused clips (e.g. Invisia) that are glued to a surface provided the radius exceeds 5mm. Fibrance can be co-extruded, integrated, or threaded in an encapsulant with a cross section that can be press (interference) fit into a rail, channel, or escutcheon. Reach out to Versalume's engineering team if you have any questions about mounting methods.
I have an idea for incorporating Fibrance into a product. How do I proceed?
A suite of application development tools are available to make prototyping your idea easy. Those tools can be found under ADK on this website. Guidance can be obtained from our engineering staff by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. When your concept is ready for production, we have a complete line of standard and customizable laser sub-assemblies and a staff of applications engineers eager to support your project.
Does Versalume provide components or custom system solutions?
Versalume provides Fibrance fiber, components, and essential systems solutions for lighting, connecting, and integrating Fibrance into a broad array of products. Versalume provides Application Development Kits and direct engineering support to help discover news ways to help our customers make distinctive, value-added products. Versalume provides a Smart Module that contains a battery, driver, and laser that facilitates design of systems incorporating Fibrance.