Lighting professionals are increasingly using a technology called remote source lighting (RSL) to move light beams anywhere they want them to go. RSL is a technique that takes light from its source and sends it through some sort of medium to one or more remote points. The medium can be either a fiber-optic (FO) bundle or a prism light guide system, which is a hollow structure (square or tubular in cross-section) with walls made of transparent prismatic material. Both make use of a phenomenon called total internal reflection to carry light.

First introduced about 25 years ago, FO lighting is now more than a curious way of pushing light around while providing color changes and other visual wizardry. New lamp designs, advanced optical controls, more fixture options, and greater economy in these [remote source] lighting systems now place them alongside downlights, troffers, and bollards in a designer’s tool belt.

Designers now use FO source lighting in many interesting ways—from the replacement of traditional lighting systems (such as in downlighting) to applications where lighting was previously not even possible. Improved side-emitting fibers are challenging neon lighting for signage and architectural accent applications. Field installation techniques are also simplified with the introduction of more complex acrylic fiber materials, offering fewer environmental limitations. In addition, the light coupling efficiency of FO illuminators has improved almost fourfold in the last few years. In fact, FO lighting has matured to the point where specifiers can demand easier, more uniform specifications and manufacturers can provide it.

Nevertheless, because of overselling, there’s some resistance to accept this technology. While there are many success stories regarding FO lighting projects, there are also jobs that didn’t turn out well. As with all new technologies, there is a learning curve. For more information, see the cover story “Lighting The Millennium With New Technologies."