The acronym RFI is short for radio frequency interference, which is also sometimes referred to as electromagnetic interference. In a nutshell, when an electrical circuit operates, it sometimes encounters disturbance. This disturbance is known as RFI and it can result in some rather unpleasant side effects, including disruptions in an electrical circuit’s performance. According to the NASA article “Radio frequency interference at the geostationary orbit,” “These effects can range from a simple degradation of data to a total loss of data.”
How does RFI occur? Radio frequency interference stems from one of two scenarios: 1) electromagnetic induction or 2) electromagnetic radiation. This latter cause comes from an outside source. Both natural and artificial sources that carry rapidly changing electrical currents can produce such interference, including electrical circuits, the sun and the Northern Lights.
What can be done about RFI? Given the interference’s unwanted side effects, it’s not surprising that its occurrence would want to be eliminated. RFI shielding is the answer to this dilemma. Shielding is a process whereby radio frequency interference is lessened through the use of electrostatic field-blocking conductive or magnetic materials. In other words an enclosure or shield is built around a space to reduce the amount of electric or magnetic field being transmitted. This enclosure has come to be known as a “Faraday Cage” after its inventor Michael Faraday. The aim of this cage is to block static and non-static electric fields from passing through the barrier.
Why is RFI such a nuisance? The rampant use of electronic devices and computer equipment in the modern day world allows such interference to run rampant. In turn, that prevalence can wreak havoc on the sensitivity of such devices. The Copper Development Association Inc. explains, “All electronic and computer systems radiate certain frequencies of radio and magnetic waves. These signals can be received by special surveillance equipment, compromising the privacy of their source.”
What can be done about this issue? Shielding the radio frequency interference is the solution to the problem. The Copper Development Association elaborates, ”
Radio frequency shielding enclosures are used in these situations to reduce the level
of RF radiation that enters or leaves the enclosed space.”
What types of materials shield RFI? The most typical materials used in RFI shielding are copper, silver and nickel, with copper being the most prevalent.
Why is copper in the RFI shielding material of choice? It all has to do with copper’s high electrical conductivity. In combination with “its other physical properties, ductility, malleability and ease of soldering,” this conductivity makes copper “an ideal material for RF shielding,” the Copper Development Association points out. Another quality of copper, its ability to be formed into the desired shape and size, also renders the metal amenable to RFI shielding.
Copper sheet, foil and coil can all prevent the unwanted byproducts that result from radio frequency interference. Copper absorbs both radio and magnetic waves, thereby offering superior protection when it comes to safeguarding sensitive and confidential information. Medical facilities, test labs, security centers and military facilities are just some of the organizations that rely on copper for RFI shielding.