'Web' of the Internet Made in N.C.
Posted February 1, 2001 6:00 a.m. EST
WILMINGTON, N.C. — The Internet is held together by fiber-optic cable, super-thin lines that lets digital data blaze through at the speed of light. Corning, Inc., leads the world in the production of optical fiber, much of which is made in North Carolina.
Miles of optical fiber, the true "Web" of the Internet, roll out of Corning's Wilmington plant each day.
"There would be no Internet without glass and without Corning's invention because copper is too slow for an Internet," says Corning Vice President Robert Hoover.
Hair-thin fibers begin with a large slug of silica, which is built with heated gases.
"That's just to get the ultra purity, so that wave beam or that light beam from the laser can go mighty, mighty far," Hoover says.
Optical fiber carries laser-powered digital signals at the speed of light. The complicated production process is computer-controlled, keeping tolerances within a micron.
The laser light goes inside an area that is less than 5 percent the diameter of a human hair. Once inside, the light can be carefully directed.
Each reel contains almost 17 miles of fiber, which will later be put into cables.
"We make enough each day to go around the world, and we're only one plant, though we are the world's largest," Hoover says.
The company is spending more than $1 billion to increase production in Wilmington and at its new plant in Concord. Corning is also responsible for the glass bulb used by Thomas Edison for his first light bulbs, as well as the design of the first TV picture tubes.