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May 6, 2014

Tackling Electromagnetic Interference

Tiffany Trader
circuit board graphic

A team of researchers from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is working to ameliorate electromagnetic incompatibility. The issue of unwanted interference is only set to worsen in step with the continued shrinking of electronic components. As componentry heads toward the nanoscale, problematic ‘noise’ arises from electromagnetic interference and susceptibility. As Xian-Ke Gao from the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore points out, “this is a “critical problem for the electronics industry.”

“Engineers are keen to understand how the electronic circuits react,” notes Gao, “However, it is difficult to measure such effects experimentally, because disassembling the device would affect the physical testing.”

A group of A*STAR-affiliated researchers from the Institute of High Performance Computing, led by Gao, have devised a semi-analytical model that can compute electromagnetic interference on an electronic circuit board ten times faster than existing commercial software, which translates into shorter design times and boosts innovation.

Current commercial computer modeling tools for electromagnetic interference are cumbersome and compute-intensive, according to an A*STAR news item on the research. The model that Gao and his team have developed is much more efficient. It relies on mathematical “transmission line” equations to describe the electrical currents in a conducting wire, and these equations are easier to solve by a computer algorithm than the grid-based approach that is the current standard.

The research team adapted the physics-based approach to be suitable for the unique properties of circuit boards. In early tests, the new software package reliably solved a number of standard problems for electronic circuits. The software achieved very good agreement, especially for the main target of interest — frequencies below one gigahertz.

The A*STAR research brief notes that speed is the primary advantage of the new software. The commerical software currently available takes more than two hours of computing on a regular laptop, while the A*STAR software package needed less than ten minutes for the same task. Says Gao: “Our computational problem-solving kit can shorten electromagnetic interference trouble-shooting in the product design phase and therefore translates into time and cost savings for the industry.”