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Electromagnetic Vulnerability Testing in Defense Applications

Key Takeaways

  • Electromagnetic vulnerability testing addresses the susceptibility of a system towards electromagnetic environmental effects.

  • For maximized security, electronic devices used for military purposes should have low electromagnetic vulnerability.

  • The electromagnetic vulnerability of circuits can be lowered by using board-level shielding or enclosure-type shielding. 

Military radio

A military radio should have low electromagnetic vulnerability

It is critical that military systems such as electronic warfare, communication, and computer network systems have electromagnetic immunity. Since these military systems handle highly sensitive information, it is vital there are no data leaks, interference, or crosstalk

But, how do engineers ensure their systems aren’t vulnerable to interference? Electromagnetic vulnerability testing checks the susceptibility of a system towards electromagnetic environmental effects. With this testing, engineers can rest assured that their systems are secure from electromagnetic interference and ready for use in the military. 

What Is Electromagnetic Vulnerability?

The electromagnetic vulnerability of an electronic circuit is an indication of its susceptibility to electromagnetic interference. Electromagnetic vulnerability degrades the performance of the system exposed to electromagnetic fields, as the system’s behavior becomes unpredictable under electromagnetic environmental conditions.

The Electromagnetic Environment

The electromagnetic environment can be either natural or manmade. Natural phenomena such as lightning and static electricity can affect the electronic systems utilizing the electromagnetic spectrum. Manmade electromagnetic sources include:

  • Mobile phones
  • Transmitters
  • Broadcasting systems
  • Satellites

The electromagnetic vulnerability of electronic and communication systems is an important parameter when selecting them for use in military applications.

The Importance of Electromagnetic Vulnerability Testing

The electromagnetic vulnerabilities of defense systems can be exploited and sensitive information can get hacked or leaked. To ensure maximized security, electronic systems used for military purposes should have low vulnerability towards electromagnetic environmental effects.

To ensure this security, various protective measures are incorporated in devices or circuit boards to overcome electromagnetic environmental effects. In electromagnetic vulnerability testing, the electromagnetic immunity and electromagnetic coupling of these protective measures are tested. The system is intentionally subjected to electromagnetic environmental effects and the degradation suffered is analyzed. Only systems that pass electromagnetic vulnerability testing should be used in military applications. 

Protective Measures Against Electromagnetic Vulnerability

According to military standards, board-level layout solutions are not enough to compete with the electromagnetic vulnerability of circuits. Various shielding types—either board-level or enclosure-level shields—are effective at preventing electromagnetic environmental effects on electronic circuits or devices. Employing appropriate shieldings, such as conductive mesh gaskets, conformal coatings, absorbing foams, or elastomers, can lower the catastrophic effects of high-level electromagnetic coupling and interference.  

Electromagnetic Shielding Solutions

The electromagnetic vulnerability of circuits can be lowered to acceptable levels by using board-level shielding or enclosure-type shielding. The following shielding solutions can help in achieving electromagnetic immunity in critical and sensitive systems.

Microwave and Millimeter Wave Absorbers

Microwave absorbers or high radio frequency wave absorbers reduce the effects of radiated energy on the target circuit. This type of shielding is most suitable for near-field applications. These shields block electromagnetic effects in the frequency band from MHz to more than 100GHz. Microwave absorbers are durable shielding solutions available in different ranges, from rigid to flexible and compact to foam. 

Fabric-Over-Foam Gaskets

Fabric-over-foam gaskets are an enclosure-type shielding method. These gaskets have high conductivity, shielding attenuation, and shielding effectiveness. They offer galvanic compatibility and are appropriate for shielding computers and telecommunication systems. The materials usually used in fabric-over-foam gaskets are nickel/copper or tin/copper.

Electromagnetic vulnerability testing assesses the system-level vulnerability to electromagnetic environmental effects, which is essential for secure defense communication networks, electronic warfare, and navigation systems. The disastrous effects of electromagnetic vulnerability in circuits can be alleviated by using an appropriate shielding mechanism. Cadence software and design tools can help you generate 3D models of circuits and their shielding mechanisms. 

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