How do EMI issues occur?

A brief article about how electromagnetic interference (EMI) can affect several critical systems and some examples of reported issues.

The generation of high-power electromagnetic (HPEM) fields and their effects on electronic components are gaining considerable interest in the last years, mostly because those components and subsystems are essential parts of aircraft, communication and IT structures, electrical vehicles, industrial automation and power grids, just to name a few areas. These systems can control safety-critical functions in several civilian and military fields. Therefore, the investigation of vulnerabilities on electric and electronic systems are essential not only to comprehend how those systems could fail, cause damage or economic losses but also understand how to protect those systems against electromagnetic threats.


Several interactions of electrical and electronic systems occur with adjacent system and its surroundings, and the effects caused by those interactions are summarized under the term electromagnetic interference (EMI). Those effects are wide and go from a simple failure, like false display indication, until the destruction of components and systems.


It is important to mention that interferences can be subdivided into unwanted and intentional interferences, into artificial and natural interference sources, as well as different intensities, as shown in the diagram below.


Some reported issues related to EM interference are listed below:

Energy generation:
• Conducted interference on a photovoltaic farm caused a huge failure on the main function of energy meters: the measurement of power generated was registered with a severe deviation.
• Damage on wind generator due to resonance effects.

Household appliances:
• Unwanted self-restart of washing machines.
• Audible noise on TV and radio devices.

Information technology:
• Individual disrupted a bank IT network using a self-made electromagnetic jammer.

Security & defence:
• HPEM devices applied to disrupt or destroy electronic systems seem like threats.
• Police radio disabled using radio frequency jammers.

Traffic control:
• Malfunction of traffic lights.
While many problems are unexpected interferences, others can be associated with intentional interferences from illicit activities. Electromagnetic interference has the potential to cause major accidents, economic disasters and indirect impacts, even to a humble individual.
Given those circumstances, the European project ETOPIA aims the development and integration of advanced methods to model, design, measure and control of electromagnetic effects, which are fundamental to achieve more safety, reliability and efficiency on the electrical power system and its components. ETOPIA also plans to keep close collaboration with projects in adjacent fields, such as SCENT (Smart Cities EMC Network for Training), PETER (Network on Electromagnetic Risk Management), and SAS (Network for Safer Autonomous Systems).

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