What Is an Optical Transceiver?

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  • Written By: Jean Marie Asta
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2019
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An optical transceiver is a computer chip that uses fiber optic technology to communicate between other devices. This is opposed to a chip that transfers information electrically through metal wires and circuits or by the process of using various wave forms to communicate data. Fiber optics are a rapidly growing field and can communicate complex information faster than conventional methods of transferring data.

Optical tranceivers send and receive information through laser diodes. These components use light and mirrors to transfer information from an electrical state to a state using visible light, and back. Not only does light carry information faster than its electrical counterpart, optical transceivers are becoming physically smaller as technology improves, making them useful for saving space within the physical body of the device housing the circuit.

There are many other types of transceivers that are used for a variety of functions in home and industrial environments. Radio frequency (RF) transceivers are commonly used in home radios and other devices to exchange information remotely across distances of up to a few miles, such as walkie-talkies. Ethernet and wireless transceivers are common computer parts that allow users to access remote computer servers via the Internet and other connected networks. Optical transceivers are used for Internet access and for forming network connections as well.


Fiber optic technology is an emerging field and so there are still some downsides to using an optical transceiver for relaying information between parts of a device or devices. One is that lasers are very sensitive to variations in temperature. Some industrial uses for lasers cannot yet be safely applied because of this temperature sensitivity. Another downside is that the output of an optical transceiver can change over its lifespan. This can affect the functions and accuracy of the device being used.

The best way to purchase an optical transceiver for use in the making of circuits is to search for one on the Internet. Some electronics supply stores may carry optical transceivers but as they are relatively new and complex technology they are not a common component of homemade circuits. Still, there is no reason why home-based engineers with enough knowledge of how an optical transceiver works shouldn’t incorporate it into the circuitry they are designing.

Due to the advantages they offer those who seek to design small devices capable of rapid exchange of information, optical transceivers are likely to become components in more forms of technology. Their main current use in home environments — reading and interpreting digital video and audio disks — is on the decline. As time passes and their limitations are dealt with, optical tranceivers will likely see common use in emerging technologies.


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