Double-clad fiber (DCF) is a class of optical fiber with a structure consisting of three layers of optical material instead of the usual two. The inner-most layer is called the core. It is surrounded by the inner cladding, which is surrounded by the outer cladding. The three layers are made of materials with different refractive indices.
There are two different kinds of double-clad fibers. The first was developed early in optical fiber history with the purpose of engineering the dispersion of optical fibers. In these fibers, the core carries the majority of the light, and the inner and outer cladding alter the waveguide dispersion of the core-guided signal. The second kind of fiber was developed in the late 1980s for use with high power fiber amplifiers and fiber lasers. In these fibers, the core is doped with active dopant material; it both guides and amplifies the signal light. The inner cladding and core together guide the pump light, which provides the energy needed to allow amplification in the core. In these fibers, the core has the highest refractive index and the outer cladding has the lowest. In most cases the outer cladding is made of a polymer material rather than glass.