Reading time ( words)
In a previous Beyond Design column, Transmission Lines, I mentioned that a transmission line does not carry the signal itself, but rather guides electromagnetic energy from one point to another. The speed of a computer does not depend intrinsically on the speed of electrons, but rather on the speed of energy transfer between electronic components. Electron flow in a multilayer PCB is extremely slow—about 10 mm per second—so, how does the signal travel so fast, how fast does it actually transfer information and what are the limitations?
In optical communications, electrons don’t carry the signal—photons do. And we all know that photons travel at the speed of light. So surely, optical fibers must transmit information much faster than copper wires or traces on a multilayer PCB? Actually, photons and electrons transmit data at the same speed. The limiting factor is the relative permittivity (dielectric constant) of the medium in which the signal propagates.
An optical fiber is a cylindrical dielectric waveguide made of low-loss materials such as fused silica glass. It has a central core in which light is guided, and embedded in an outer cladding of slightly lower refractive index. The silica glass used has a dielectric constant (Er or Dk) = 3.78 @25GHz. Whereas, for instance, Panasonic’s new Megtron 7, low Dk, glass PCB laminate has an Er = 3.3 at the same frequency.
To read this entire article, which appeared in the February 2016 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.
Pete Starkey, I-Connect007
Pete Starkey continues with his review of the AltiumLive PCB Design Summit held recently in Munich, Germany. The second day commenced with a new product launch. “Working together is hard” it read on the screen. Statistics indicated that 33% of new products were late getting to market, of which 28% were late due to insufficient collaboration, and up to 50% of potential revenue could be lost through being late to market. Then the screen read “NEXUS makes it easy!”
Pete Starkey, I-Connect007
Altium held a very successful AltiumLive PCB Design Summit in San Diego, California at the beginning of October for the benefit of their North American design community, and followed it three weeks later with a counterpart European event in Munich. And what an eye-opener it proved to be—literally hundreds of delegates, a superbly organised and managed programme, billed as a completely immersive two-day interactive design experience on a theme of learning, connecting and getting inspired.
Andy Shaughnessy, PCBDesign007
Polar Instruments has pretty been busy lately. In the last year, Managing Director Martyn Gaudion has written two books for I-Connect007, and the company has been working to upgrade its tools, especially library functionality. I met with Martyn at PCB West. We discussed Polar’s newest tool updates, Martyn’s new side job as an author of technical books, and the continuing growth of the EDA segment, including among young people.