What is RFI or Radio Frequency Interference?

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- everything RF

Mar 23, 2023

Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) refers to any unwanted electromagnetic signal that disrupts the functioning of an electronic device. The source of RFI can be manmade or can be generated by the environment. Manmade sources would be any electronic device, that emits some level of Radio Waves during operation. These can be generated by a signal passing through a cable or some unwanted emissions that are generated during the operation of regular electronic devices like laptops, sensors and other electrical / electronic components. 

There are two ways by which an electronic device can cause radio frequency interference: 

  • Radiated radio frequency interference - this interference is directly emitted into the environment from the device itself.
  • Conducted radio frequency interference - this interference is released into an AC power line through the power cord of a component or device.

RFI can result in degraded signal quality which can in-turn lower the performance of electronic devices in its surroundings.

Reducing the Impact of Radio Frequency Interference

There are several ways to reduce the impact of RFI caused by electronic devices. This depends of the source of RFI. For example, if it is generated from a component or chipset on a circuit board, then the use of Board Level Shielding is a good way to block the emission of these waves. If the RFI is being emitted from a cable, we could consider using a cable with better shielding or an outer layer that reduces the emission of these waves.

Safety agencies and many government bodies have established norms concerning radio frequency interference (RFI) and noise emissions. These norms define the level of RFI that is acceptable and will not harm electronics devices operating in their surroundings.