EMC Question of the Week: December 12, 2022

Device with two power inputs VBATT+ and VBATT-. A noise source drives VBATT+ relative to circuit ground.

Conducted emissions testing of a 12-volt device reveals that the noise on the power wire (VBATT+) is 12 dB over the limit. The noise on the power return wire (VBATT-) is 12 dB below the limit. This product would benefit from a pi-filter

  1. on the VBATT+ side
  2. on the VBATT- side
  3. on both sides (same filter)
  4. employing a CM choke


The best answer is “a.” The VBATT+ side is the one that requires filtering.

This answer may seem obvious, but sometimes engineers overthink it. The differential-mode and common-mode components of the measured noise are,

V D M = V B A T T + V B A T T 2 V B A T T + 2 V C M = V B A T T + + V B A T T 2 V B A T T + 2

There is a differential-mode and a common-mode component. Both are 6 dB over the limit.

It's tempting to conclude that both differential-mode and common-mode filtering are required. However, it's far more likely that the device-under-test is simply unbalanced. The VBATT- side is likely well-connected to the circuit board ground and/or the system chassis ground at the measurement frequencies. There are no significant sources driving VBATT- relative to the ground at the measurement point. The noise source drives VBATT+ relative to circuit ground. Simply filtering the VBATT+ side to the circuit board ground is the best option.

Of course, it would be possible to meet the conducted emissions requirement with a much more complicated filter. A common-mode choke would reduce the noise on one side and increase the noise on the other side. Both sides could then be filtered to the chassis ground. And while this might work, the filter would be much bigger and more expensive than necessary.

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