The Basics of EMC: Electromagnetic Compatibility

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Electromagnetic compatibility is the situation in which electrical and electronic devices and systems work as intended, both within themselves and in their electromagnetic environment.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is said to exist when unwanted voltages or currents are present so that they adversely affect the performance of a device or system. Such voltages or currents may reach the victim circuit or device by conduction, induction or by non-ionizing radiation. In all cases, electromagnetic interference arises because of a combination of three factors: a source, a transmission path, and a response, at least one of which is unplanned. Electromagnetic interference control refers to the process of making design changes or adjustments of signal or noise levels in order to achieve electromagnetic compatibility (EMC).

The purpose of shielding is to confine radiated energy to a specific region, or to prevent radiated energy from entering a specific region. The most effective shield is a solid metallic enclosure, made of permeable metal (e.g., iron or steel) if frequencies below 100 kHz are to be shielded, or any metal if higher frequencies are to be shielded. However, a solid shield does not permit light, air, water or other substances to be passed through it, so shields with holes, including screens, braids, and honeycomb arrangements, as well as conductive glass may be needed. The widespread use of plastic enclosures has made thin film shields vital in achieving the needed shielding effectiveness in the use of such enclosures.

An electrical filter offers relatively little opposition to the passage of certain frequencies or direct current (DC) while blocking the passage of other frequencies. Accordingly, filters play a significant role in reducing conducted interference to the extent that such interference has a spectral content different from that of the desired signal.

A filter may be either reflective or lossy. Reflective filters present an impedance mismatch to unwanted frequencies, thereby returning them to the input, whereas lossy filters absorb unwanted frequencies. A filter may be designed on a time-domain basis as well as a frequency-domain basis.

Digital systems, such as computers, tend to interfere with analog systems, such as voice and video communications, more readily than analog systems interfere with digital systems. Therefore, data streams to be transmitted over analog voice circuits are converted to quasianalog-tone form first. Computer clocks also may have to be shielded and their output circuits may have to be filtered to prevent interference to communication equipment. In addition, personal computers must be connected to television receivers so that the video output of the personal computer does not reach the television receiving antenna, which then would radiate such signals.

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Updated: Tuesday, 2013-06-04 15:53 PST