EMC FLEX BLOG A site dedicated to Automotive EMC Testing for Electronic Modules


19. November 2021 15:17 by Christian in EMC/EMI, Shielding

For shielding unbalanced two-wire cables, it is critical to understand the impact of changes to ground connections to chasis vs signal return.

The signal ground for both the driver and receiver systems is defined as the internal "O V" reference for each system. 


If the output of one device contains a balanced driver and the input of the other device contains a balanced receiver, then the nearly ideal shielding scheme is the connection of the cable shield to both of the chassis at both ends. If there are no pigtails present, then this shielding configuration is nearly ideal since the entire system is enclosed by one continuous metal shell. The cable can be viewed then as an extension of the chassis. This scenario (#1) is not perfect since the two chassis might be at two different potentials. This system can still be corrupted and unbalanced by other sources. When the chassis for driver and receiver circuitry are at different potentials, ground current will pass between the chassis and through the cable shield, forming a ground loop. Depending on factors such as the frequency, this current can appear on the inside of the cable shield and chassis. This ground loop current and the field it generates can also interfere with other systems that are not completely shielded.

Although the driver and receiver are shown as balanced, they cannot be perfectly balanced, and some of this inner shield current can induce noise into the circuit. Because the length of the connecting cable is often large compared to the largest dimensions of the two chassis, the balancing of the wires inside the cable is probably most critical. However, any current that is present along the inner surface of the two chassis can also induce noise in other nonbalanced and other nonideal balanced circuits inside either chassis. 



In this configuration the cable shield is connected to only one of the chassis. If only one of the chassis are connected to their respective signal grounds, then the other signal ground should not be connected to the cable shield. Otherwise, noise currents induced on the chassis and cable shield would travel inside the device through this signal ground connection, partially defeating the purpose of the shielding. Although the two outputs and two inputs of the balanced driver and receiver are not connected to these signal grounds, the rest of the circuit will probably contain unbalanced circuitry that would use a signal return or ground. When both the driver and receiver chassis are connected to their respective signal grounds, then there is no clear best solution. Usually, the cable shield is not left floating. If there i no convenient way of connecting the cable shield to either chassis, the cable shield is connected to one of the signal grounds. Usually, to avoid excessive noise currents on the signal grounds, the cable shield is not connected to both of the signal grounds; one end of the cable shield is left disconnected or not tied to anything. Since the signal ground is likely connected to the chassis ground at a single point, the cable shield is at a low potential. There is a potential benefit of connecting the shield to the signal ground at both ends: the path of the noise current is well known and the crosstalk might be better controlled. 

When a balanced driver connects to an unbalanced receiver, the unbalanced receiver easily amplifies noise that is picked up by the system. With balanced receivers, the receiver rejects some of the commonmode noise. For this reason, a balanced driver and unbalanced receiver combination can be very troublesome. As with the previous configurations, the 1st ranked configuration shown in Table 18.4 involves connecting the cable shield at both ends to the chassis. Again, noise currents on the cable shield can induce noise on the two conductors inside the cable. To reduce this noise or crosstalk coupling to the cable's inner conductors, the cable length should be minimized. If this noise level is too great, it may be necessary to disconnect the cable shield from one of the chassis as shown in the ranked configurations. If connection of the cable shield to a chassis is not possible, then the cable shield can be connected to either signal ground (but not usually both) as shown in the 3rd ranked ronfigurations. Care should be taken when connecting either output of the balanced driver to the signal ground of the unbalanced receiver. Essentially, the corresponding output is short circuited by this connection, which can damage the output device and cause distortion. Even connecting the output of the balanced driver to the signal ground of the receiver can be troublesome. Balanced floating drivers are available to alleviate some of these "shorting" of the output problems. Although usinga balanced driver can help in reducing the emissions from the system, it does not help (much?) for decreasing the susceptibility of the system. 



The driver is unbalanced while the receiver is balanced. Connecting an unbalanced driver to a balanced receiver will decrease the common-mode rejection ratio (CMRR) of the entire system. As with completely balanced systems, potentially troublesome noise current can exist along the inner surface of the cable shield and chassis. Since the driver and receiver combination is not balanced in this case, the noise current can couple into the system more easily than in the case with the fully balanced system. For this reason, interrupting the conducting path for these noise currents can result in lower noise levels. Therefore, either of the 2nd ranked configurations may result in lower noise levels than the 1st ranked system. If the option of connecting the cable shield to one chassis is not available, then the cable shield should be connected to one of the signal grounds. Generally, the shield should not be left floating. It is probably a good idea not to connect the cable shield to the signal grounds at both the driver and receiver. Not connecting the shield to both signal grounds will tend to reduce the noise currents on the signal grounds by interrupting the conducting path. The 3'd ranked configuration is commonly used, especially when the actual grounding connections inside the driver and receiver are not known with certainty. 



 Typically, when an unbalanced driver is connected to an unbalanced receiver, coaxial cable or other two-conductor cable (no three-conductor cable is used). However, if shielded two-wire cable is used SCENARIO #4  can be referred to for grounding recommendations. The previous rationale also applies for these connections.
Generally, shielded two-wire cable when properly connected will be less susceptible to noise and have lower field emissions than unshielded two-conductor cable. The balance nature of the cable is also an important factor. Shielded two-wire cable, such as shielded twisted pair, is often balanced. To help in the balancing of the system, when connecting a balanced driver to a balanced receiver, it is highly recommended that the connecting cable also be balanced. Although shielded balanced cable is recommended, the following comments are provided in those cases where two-conductor cable is used.

Twisted pair that is not shielded is considered a two-conductor cable. Twisted pair is considered a balanced cable. When balanced twisted pair is used to connect a driver enclosed by a metal chassis to a receiver enclosed by a metal chassis, the cable shield conductor is not present to "continue" the metal enclosure of the chassis. Although not all possible combinations will be discussed, generally for twisted pairs:

  •  When connecting a balanced driver to a balanced receiver, neither side of the twisted pair should be connected, if possible, to either the chassis or signal grounds; otherwise, the balance of the system will be affected.
  • When connecting an unbalanced driver to a balanced receiver, one conductor of the twisted pair must be connected to the signal ground at the driver to provide a return path for the driver current. Since the signal ground is likely connected to the chassis at one point, this may imply that one conductor of the cable is connected to one chassis (but not both). Neither the signal nor the chassis ground at the balanced receiver should be connected to either of the two twisted-pair conductors. Otherwise, a conductive path is available for any noise currents on the ground system.
  • When connecting a balanced driver to an unbalanced receiver, one conductor of the twisted pair must be connected to the signal ground at the receiver. Additional connections to ground are normally avoided.
  • When connecting an unbalanced driver to an unbalanced receiver, one conductor of the twisted pair must be connected to the signal ground at both the driver and receiver. This implies that the signal (and noise currents will return on both the cable return conductor and signal ground path.

When systems are connected with coaxial cable, the outer conductor is acting like a shield. Unfortunately, this outer conductor is also the signal return conductor. Coaxial cable has the advantage of providing some shielding, but coaxial cable has the disadvantage of being an unbalanced cable. For this reason, when coax is used to interconnect a balanced driver and receiver, it will tend to decrease the balance of the system more than twisted pair. The outer conductor of coax should be used as the signal return conductor. For this reason, the outer conductor or shield of the coax should be connected to something on both ends and not left floating. The previous recommendations for unshielded twisted pair can be applied to coax. The two conductors for the coax are the inner conductor and outer conductor. The only major difference is that the outer conductor or shield is normally connected to the more negative side of the driver and receiver. 



 Christian Rosu, Nov 18, 2021



18. November 2021 18:28 by Christian in EMC/EMI, EMC TEST PLAN, Grounding, PCB, Shielding
Near-field interference (crosstalk) is a major issue in electronic devices and systems when comes to EMC compliance.

Near-field interference (crosstalk) is a major issue in electronic devices and systems when comes to EMC compliance. To reduce crosstalk, as well as far-field interference, the transmission lines can be shielded. The length of transmission lines and spacing between the conductors should be as small as possible. The steel tube around the untwisted pair is superior to both the aluminum and copper tube due to its magnetic properties.


 Untwisted Pair

The length of the conductors and the spacing between them must be short.

Untwisted Pair Inside Copper Tube

Less susceptible to near filed magnetic noise. Copper is non-magnetic with μr (relative permeability) = 1. A very small induced bucking current in the Cu tube will generate a small  counter magnetic field.

Untwisted Pair Inside Grounded Aluminum Tube

Less susceptible to near filed magnetic noise. Aluminum is non-magnetic, 0.61 of copper conductivity. Therefore, the magnitude of the counter magnetic field is less. The grounded Al tube reduces near-field electric emissions susceptibility and static charge buildup on the shield being less expensive.

Untwisted Pair Inside Steel Tube

The steel tube & untwisted pair is better than Al or Cu tube due to its magnetic properties (μr = 1000 @ low frequencies):
(i) it increases the absorption of the magnetic fields
(ii) redirects the magnetic fields away from the tube's interior

 Twisted Pair

Twisted pair without any shielding is ranked higher than the untwisted pair in a steel tube. Per Lenz's law, the magnetic field will induce a voltage in a loop of wire. The orientation of the loop affects the sign of this voltage. Twisting the two wires forces the induced voltage in neighboring loops to be of opposite polarity. By summing all of the induced voltages from each of the loops generated by the twisting, the net induced noise voltage is significantly less than without the twisting. The sum is theoretically zero for an even number of loops. Twisting the wire is probably one of the least expensive methods to decrease the susceptibility of a cable to magnetic fields.

Twisted Pair Inside Steel Tube

Twisted pair inside a steel tube is the least susceptible to magnetic fields. The steel tube absorbs and redirects the magnetic fields. Steel is relatively inexpensive, but it is heavy. To avoid rusting it should be galvanized.




  •  The shielded twisted pair with both the source and load grounded offers only 2 dB less susceptibility to low-frequency noise. Although the grounding of the shield will reduce electric field emissions, many of the advantages of using twisted pair are lost since the load and source are not balanced (load & source are both single-ended grounded).
    The return current path is divided between the return conductor of the twisted pair and the ground plane.
    At low frequencies, a majority of the current tends to return via the low-impedance ground plane. At higher frequencies, the current tends to return along a path nearest to the forward signal current - the twisted pair conductor.


  •  The 'least immune, or most susceptible, cable of those listed to low-frequency noise (both electric & magnetic) is the coaxial structure where both the source and load are grounded and the shield is only connected to the source ground. Although the grounding of the shield will reduce electric field emissions from the center conductor, the outer shield has virtually no influence on the magnetic field susceptibility.


  •  The return current for both the signal and noise must be via the ground path between the load and source. This current-path loop can be large. The effective area for either magnetic emissions or magnetic pickup can therefore also be large. This dosed current path through the ground is referred to as a ground loop.


  •  A significant improvement in performance is obtained when a twisted pair is used and the load is balanced.
    The load is floating with neither end of the load connected to ground.
    At low frequencies, the parasitic coupling between the load and nearby grounds is small, and the signal current should mostly return via the return conductor of the twisted pair. The effective pickup area of the complete current path is small, and the twisting produces alternating polarity induced voltages in each of the loops. Since there is no surrounding shield, there is no electric field shielding. However, if the line is balanced, the capacitive coupling (i.e., near-field electric coupling) to each line should be about the same, and the net electric-field induced noise across the load should be negligible.


  •  When the shield or outer conductor of the coaxial cable is grounded at both ends (source & load), the return current will divide between the shield and ground plane. If the frequency of the signal is much greater than the cutoff frequency of the shield, then most of the current will return via the shield. If the frequency of the signal is much less than the cutoff frequency of the shield, then most of the current will return via the ground plane. This scenario is slightly better than the shielded twisted pair arrangement shown above dur to lower resistance of the shield relative to the return conductor of the twisted pair. Noise current passes through the shield and returns through the ground path. Most of the signal current, not shown here, returns via the return of the twisted pair conductor. A potential disadvantage of multiple ground points is that noise currents can exist along the shield. In addition, since the shield has a nonzero impedance, the noise voltage can also vary along the shield. Since capacitive coupling exists between the shield and each of the twisted pair conductors, noise will be induced across the load unless the line is perfectly balanced. The capacitive coupling from each conductor to the shield should be nearly the same. This noise will be a function of the distance along the line.


  •  The symmetry of the concentric shield is utilized when the load is floating and the shield is connected to the load. Furthermore, the voltage at the load end of the shield is closer to the voltages along the twisted pair conductors at the load. The currents from the shield to the twisted pair conductors via the parasitic capacitance are less since the voltage across the parasitic capacitance is smaller. DISAVANTAGE: any noise current that couples into the system can now exist on the shield and signal return. The conservative approach is to avoid noise currents on the signal and return conductors even when the system is (partially) balanced.


Christian Rosu, Nov 18, 2021.

The end of EMC quality

15. November 2021 23:01 by Christian in
VThe EMC compliance is no longer as important as it was years ago in automotive electronics industry

The EMC compliance is no longer as important as it was years ago in automotive electronics industry. Th OEM EMC specifications used to be revised every 4 years to prevent EMC issues affecting vehicle's safety and overall customer satisfaction. Lately the competition between car makers is leveled down to minimize the cost and speed up delivery.

Automotive LIN bus

10. November 2021 17:32 by Christian in EMC/EMI, EMC TEST PLAN, Test Equipment
In automotive EMC testing the LIN bus master/slave nodes must be terminated to replicate vehicle loading.

In automotive applications the LIN bus is used as communication bus for various functions:

  • Steering wheel: Cruise control, wiper, climate control, radio
  • Comfort: Sensors for temperature, sun roof, light, humidity
  • Powertrain: Sensors for position, speed, pressure
  • Engine: Small motors, cooling fan motors
  • Air condition: Motors, control panel (AC is often complex)
  • Door: Side mirrors, windows, seat control, locks
  • Seats: Position motors, pressure sensors
  • Other: Window wipers, rain sensors, headlights, airflow

A master node loops through each of the slave nodes, sending a request for information - and each slave responds with data when polled. The data bytes contain LIN bus signals (in raw form).

For EMC component level testing purpose, the LIN bus termination must be properly terminated to simulate vehicle loading scenario. 



Christian Rosu, Nov 10, 2021

EMC Test Plans compliance tricks

8. November 2021 10:49 by Christian in EMC/EMI, EMC TEST PLAN, OEM Specs, Test Methods
How to cheat EMC requirements

FMC1278R3 specification mention that CI 280 (ESD Test Methods) must be carried out prior to any other test methods. If CI 280 fails, continuing the rest of EMC validation must be decided by FORD. The same 2 samples must theoretically withstand all FMC1278R3 test methods selected by EMC Test Plan.

The order of the test methods is critical, and the test results listed by laboratory report applies only to the two samples provided (Part Number, Serial Number, HW/SW revision). Some Europeans & Japanes automotive makers allow the use of multiple groups of samples to be used for simultaneously running test methods, probably to to speed up the completion of validation. This means that no sample is exposed to the full validation test list leaving room for insufficient EMC compliance evaluations.

Example of potentially destructive test methods:

  1. ESD on the first group of samples.
  2. Transients on supply lines on a second group of samples.
  3. Reverse Polarity on a third grtoup of samples

To compensate somehow such selective test methods allocation, the EMC Test Plan authors would require 3 samples per group instead of 2 samples per full validation. 

A parametric test is required following each immunity test method, and this may reveal some tolerances being pushed to one extreme if not outside the acceptable range. In a real scenario, following ESD powered one unit out of three was measured with 12 KΩ impedance on B+ line versus 16 KΩ prior to test. Other than that everything was functional, the DUT current consumption was the same before and after ESD. Theoretically this unit survived ESD and based on EMC Test Plan was not supposed to be tested for Transients on Supply Lines. By mistake this unit was tested for JASO Pulse B-2 (-260V) and the outcome was "sample damged on the second pulse". This EMC test plan trick was used to hide a poor DUT design performance for Honda that otherwise would have never pass FMC1278R3 spec.



Christian Rosu, Nov 8, 2021.