What is EMI Shielding and Should You be Aware of It?

Every electrical or electronic device produces what is known as an electromagnetic field and the signal produced by the device can interfere with the signal from another piece of equipment. That could then cause interference between the devices. This disruption can cause damage to the device, prevent it working to its proper capacity or prevent it from working at all. The buzz you may hear from your speakers when you switch them on when there is another device close by is an example of EMI but that is nothing compared with the effects that EMI can have on for example life saving equipment or the communication systems attached to an aircraft. Very expensive and technologically advanced equipment is open to damage and organisations are becoming more aware of the protective methods and maintenance needed to maintain the equipment.

As we continue to have more and more mobile devices, we are likely to be faced with an increase in EMI.

EMI sources can be both man-made and natural. Electromagnetic fields are all around us, natural and created and since they are invisible, it is something that many give little consideration to and something that many do not understand as many would find it to be a complicated subject to understand. There is also considerable concern regarding the effects that the electromagnetic radiation, that we are all exposed to, can have on our health.

Consideration therefore has to be given to some sort of protective mechanism and this is known as EMI shielding. What is EMI Shielding? EMI Shielding is a method used to protect devices from damage or interference caused by the electromagnetic fields. It is the practice of blocking or reducing the electromagnetic fields in a particular space by the use of a barrier. Shielding is required when we wish to isolate the particular piece of equipment from the surrounding electromagnetic fields and it is now becoming a serious point of consideration for many people in many walks of life and not only for governments and businesses.The purpose of EMI shielding would be to bring electromagnetic compatibility so that devices can be used alongside one another without interference taking place.

Different techniques, materials and technologies can be used to achieve electromagnetic compatibility and it would very much depend on the piece of equipment involved. The type of material and the thickness of material used is determined by the frequencies that require to be deflected. Different materials have different qualities and commonly used materials would include copper, steel, aluminium, nickel and zinc.

Electromagnetic Interference can impact many processes, some with many potentially very serious consequences,

  • Train signals and control systems
  • Aeroplane communication systems
  • Navigational equipment on ships
  • X-Ray equipment in hospitals
  • Life support systems and devices
  • External pacemakers
  • IT equipment
  • Data storage
  • Security systems

It is an issue that everyone should be aware of and educated to understand. With the ever increasing use of more and more advanced technologies, more and more systems can be impacted. We rely on our technology and have many parts of our lives stored online. Methods of shielding have to be carefully considered to protect our vital services and equipment.

Adam Hansen