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CABLE SHIELDING Because cables are typically the longest component of many electronic systems, they are also the most prone to radiate and most susceptible to electromagnetic interference. Proper cable shielding can make a difference of close to 80dB in some cases, so it is a lecture note well worth spending the time to understand. There are two basic types that provide shielding: coaxial cables and twisted wire pairs. Coaxial shields provide an inherent immunity to electric field interference, and twisted pairs provide an inherent immunity to magnetic field interference.

The worst type of cabling is that of a single wire, using the ground for return. The Earths impedance can vary greatly, and the large loop system was used for telegraph and telephone systems of the late 1800s and early 1900s, but it was soon realized that they were much too susceptible to crosstalk and interference from manmade and natural noise source. Crosstalk (we shall discus in later lecture) may not have been a problem when there was only one telegraph or telephone cable in each town and no radio stations, but as the electric age was ushered in, engineers switched to using twoconductor transmission lines. Coaxial (common axis) Cable below the Break Frequency To provide excellent electric field shielding, a metal cylinder can be placed around the signal conductor and used for the return current. This geometry forms the common coaxial cable. The term coaxial refers to the fact that wire (inner conductor) and the

shield (outer conductor) share the same central axis. In other words, the wire is placed in the exact center of the shield. For the coaxial cable to work effectively, it must surround the inner conductor completely, without any gaps or slots. The shield must be chassis-grounded to operate as intended (otherwise, electric fields will capacitively couple to the outside of the shield and then capacitvely couple to the inside of the shield). When the shield is grounded, the electric fields couple to the shield and then are shunted to ground. Some interference still occurs because of the finite resistance of the shield, but the interference is greatly diminished. For electric shielding, the shield


AIR DIELECTRIC needs to be connected to the chassis-ground of the equipment at only one side. However, if the cable is electrically long, the grounding needs to be performed in multiple places, the ground connections should be placed every 1 20 to 1 10 or less. The shield of a coaxial cable unfortunately provides no inherent magnetic shielding. However, there are techniques of grounding that can provide excellent magnetic shielding with coax. The most important factor in successful cabling is to provide a path

for return current to flow through the shield, where it is close to the signal conductor. By following the rule, most of the current returns in the shield and not the earth. The technique allows the signal loop to be small, preventing radiation. Ideally, the shield should be connected to chassis-ground at only one location so that ground loops cannot form. The rules for the treatment of coaxial cable at low frequency (below the cable break frequency) are as follows: The shield (outer conductor) should be connected to the signal common at both ends. If the signal at a cable end is referenced to ground (earth) through a resistor or circuit, the shield should be grounded at that point. If the signal at a cable end is not referenced to ground (earth) through a resistor or circuit, the shield should not be grounded at that point. Ideally, the signal common and shield should be grounded (earthed) at exactly one location. Grounding at two locations is acceptable, but reduces magnetic performance.

Electrically long cables are an exception to the rule, and should be grounded at least every1 10 .

If the shield grounded at both ends, a common mode choke can be used to prevent common mode currents. The use of transformers or opt couplers will also break ground loops and prevent common mode currents. A simple way to create a common mode choke is to coil a portion of the cable into a loop. This technique is commonly used periodically along the utility poles in CATV distribution.

Triaxial Cables and Ferromagnetic Shielding To provide even better shielding effectiveness, a second shield can be used. This second shield allows ground current to circulate on the outer shield and signal return current to flow on the inner shield. These arrangements prevents common impedance coupling between the interference current and the signal current in the shield and provide the best performance. Such shielding is used for very sensitive measurements. This outer shield should be grounded via the equipment chassis at both ends. The inner shield is connected to the signal common at the both ends, which may or may not be referenced to the chassis ground. Another technique is the use of an added shield made from a ferromagnetic material such as mu-metal. The ferromagnetic material concentrates any ambient magnetic fields, reducing the penetration of the field into the interior of the cable.

Break Frequency The division between high and low frequencies on cable is determined by the brak frequency of the cable. The break frequency (also called the cutoff frequency) is simply a low-pass filter effect caused by the shield inductance and shield resistance, f = R 2L where R and L are the aeries resistance and inductance of the shield, respectively. Cables behave much differently below the break frequency, as mentioned earlier in the chapter. At high frequency =, the inductance prevents ground loop currents and other

types of common mode currents. Above the break frequency, the characteristic impedance of the cable is approximately

Zo =


Below the break frequency, the characteristic impedance is approximately


R i 2fC

Note that below the break frequency Z o is a complex number with a phase angle of 45 degrees. The break frequency for typical coaxial falls in the range between 500 Hz and 10 kHz. Coaxial Cables above the Break Frequency Surprisingly, above the break frequency, coaxial cable performance actually improves. At about 5 times the break frequency, virtually all the current travels in the shield and none travel via ground loops. Thus, the guidance for grounding high frequency coaxial cable is simple. At high frequencies (five times the break frequency) coaxial cable should be grounded at both sends. Skin Depth and Transfer Impedance As frequency increase, the associated skin depth becomes very small; when the skin depth is 1/5 or less than the thickness of the outer conductor, a coaxial cable behaves like a triaxial (double shielded) cables. Signal current flows exclusively on the inner surface of the shield, and induced interference current flows on the outer surface of the shield. For most shields, this change occurs at about 1MHz. the measure of isolation created by the skin effects is often expressed in terms of transfer impedance. At DC, the transfer impedance is just the DC resistance of the cable. Once the skin depth becomes less than the thickness of the shield, the transfer impedance quickly drops to zero. The voltage that develops in a cable because of induced interference currents in the shield is

proportional to the transfer impedance. Thus, as the transfer impedance goes to zero, so does the interference voltage. At high frequencies (> 1 MHz, typical) a coaxial cable with solid shield performs like a triaxial cable.

Solid and Braided Shields Coaxial shields come in two types solid and braided. A solid shield is just what it sounds like a solid conductor that completely surrounds the inner conductor. Aluminum is most often used for solid shields. Aluminum can not be soldered to, so crimp style connectors must be used with this type of cable. For CATV distribution, the aluminum is an extruded/bonded piece of metal. This shielding is ideal. For most other application the shield is a piece of aluminum foil. The foil typically has a crease in it, which prevents current from circulating and can cause high-frequency problems. Braided coax utilizes a copper braid for the shield. Because no braid can provide complete coverage, the shielding properties are comprised. The most dramatic effect is the behavior of the transfer impedance. At high frequencies, the transfer impedance actually increases instead of decreasing because of the inductance from the holes in the braid. Thus the magnetic shielding behavior becomes worst instead of better. Braided shields can be the source of strange problem such as GHz oscillation. The best high frequency solution is a cable with both an aluminum foil shield and the copper braid. Such are available from Belden and can exhibit transfer impedance as low as 1m /meter at 500 MHz. Ribbon Cables Ribbon cables are very ineffective at providing any type of shielding and should not be used except inside product over very short distances. (lab use of ribbon cable for RS232 signaling is also often acceptable, but dont intend to sell any products based in external ribbon cabling.)

When using ribbon cables, it is good idea to use a separate ground wire for every signal wire. The wiring should be such that signal wires and ground wires alternate in succession. This technique reduces inductive and common impedance coupling between the wires. Twisted Pair Cables Twisted pair cable consists of a pair of wire twisted consistently to achieve constant characteristics impedance. The twisted pair cable is complement to the coaxial in that

TWISTED PAIR CABLE it provides inherent magnetic shielding but no electric shielding. The magnetic shielding arises from the twisting. Each twist reverses the polarity of the loop; therefore magnetic fields can only couple to the small loop twists and not the cable as a whole. The shielding effectiveness increases with finer pitch (more twists per inch). Finer pitch also allows for higher-frequency operation also requires that the variation in the twisting pair cables is used for carrying phone signals and for twisted pair Ethernet local area network (LAN) signals. Standards exist for different types of cable. Category 1 cable is specified for voice signals; category 3 cables has a finer pitch and is specified for 10Mbit/sec signaling; category 5 is specified for 100Mbit/sec signaling; category 6 cable is specified for 250Mbit/sec cabling; category 7 cable is planned for 600 Mbit/sec operation. Several pairs can be used in parallel to achieve higher bit rates. These cables are specified to transmit data up to 100 meters. The high-frequency characteristic impedance is 100 ohms. There is a break frequency for twisted pair cables. The break frequency for typical twisted pair wires, like those used in telephone wiring, falls in the range between 10

kHz and 100 kHz. At audio frequencies the magnitude of characteristic impedance is typically specified as 900 ohms or 600 ohms, in accordance with telephone standards. The line is matched to a 600 ohms source at the telephone companys central office (CO). At 60 Hz it rises to 10 kohmes or more. This is in drastic contrast to the purely real, 100 ohm, high frequency characteristic impedance typical of twisted pairs. There are two methods is to provide electric field shielding on twisted pairs. The first method is to use a metal shield around both of the pairs. This shield grounded via the equipment chassis, and it must be grounded at either one end or both ends. However, several options exist fro grounding the shield. For low frequencies (below break frequency), grounding at one end is the best. For high frequencies, grounding at both ends is the best. One variation is to ground the cable at one end and then connect the other end to ground via a capacitor. This technique provides a single ground for low frequencies, and two grounds for high frequencies. The capacitor should have a high voltage rating (to withstand ESD events), and a large value resistor should be used in parallel to further drain any static charges. Single-Ended versus Balanced Signalling So far all the cable techniques I have discussed assume that one of the conductors is connected to the signal common. In the case of coaxial cables, the outer conductor is always connected to the signal common (and possibly ground) because twisted pair is a symmetric transmission line, it doesnt matter which conductor is connected to ground. This method of cabling is referred to as single-ended cabling. A better way to send signals is to use balanced signaling. In a balanced system, each wire has the same impedance to the circuit common (which is typically grounded). The effect can be achieved by using a centerapped transformer with the center tap connected to ground, or one wire and an equal but opposite voltage on the other signal. For proper balancing, the output impedance of each amplifier output must be equal. At the receiving end, the difference in voltage between the signals is measured. The receiving end circuit may or may not be referenced to ground. This technique has many benefits. First, it is immune to ground differences at the sending and receiving ends, because only the difference of the voltage between the

wires is measured. The common voltage to ground is irrelevant. Second, the balancing provided immunity to electric fields. If placed in an electric field, currents may be induced, but due to balancing, the current voltages are equal in the two wires. Consequently, equal interferences voltage is added to both wires. Since the receiver amplifies the difference, the received signal is unaffected. Telephone lines use balanced twisted pair signaling. At the central office, each wire is typically connected to ground through 300 (or 450) ohms of resistance. This arrangement provides balancing and impedance matching to 600 (or 900) ohms. The receiving end (your telephone set) is typically floating with respect to ground. Because telephone cables can be several miles long and often travel underneath power lines, shielding is extremely important. The measurement that shows a quantity of how well a twisted pair is balanced is called longitudinal balance. Any mismatch in impedance to ground reduces the electric field immunity. Twisted pair Ethernet, as well as data protocols such as RS-422, also utilizes balanced twisted pair signaling. The original Ethernet standard specified coaxial cable, but twisted pair is now exclusively used in the Ethernet standards. The main reason for the change of technologies is the ease of physically routing twisted pair as compared to coaxial cable, which is bulkier and harder to bend. Cable Summary Twisted pair cable works well than coaxial cable for low impedance (impedance less than the characteristic impedance of the cable) since it is better at preventing magnetic coupling. (recall that low-impedance line are mostly susceptible ) coaxial cable provides better performance than unbalanced twisted pair. However, a well-balanced twisted pair provides extra immunity. For low frequency applications, such as audio, gory standardization, data is very well served by balanced twisted pair cabling. Analog RF and microwaves is the domain of coaxial cables. Some coaxial cabling systems (cables and connectors) can support frequencies of 40 GHz and higher.