RE: [SI-LIST] : Differential Impedance Effects on Diff. Return Cu rrent

From: Dill, Franz @ Celerity (@)
Date: Wed Jan 03 2001 - 16:04:32 PST

Andy,

Are the following observations then true?

If I wanted to isolate a ECL clock signal's return current path to the diff.
complementary rail I would INCREASE the distance of both traces from the
signal's reference plane but RETAIN the 100 Ohm differential impedance and
terminate accordingly - making the diff. complementary rail the least
inductive path.

In a real-world situation where spacing to ref. plane is 2 mils (Buried Cap)
with diff. spacing of 11 mils a majority of the return current will run
through the ref. plane with a small amount through the complementary diff.
rail. (Assumes no other near-by traces)

Franz.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ingraham, Andrew [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 3:00 PM
To: 'Dill, Franz @ Celerity'
Cc: 'SI-Mailing List'
Subject: RE: [SI-LIST] : Differential Impedance Effects on Diff. Return
Cu rrent

> First, is this statement valid?
> - In a differential pair, one 'leg' of a signal's return current path is
> through the complementary 'leg' of a differential pair and not through the
> ground or power planes (Assuming equal trace lengths, Zo=50 single-ended,
> Zo=100 diff. impedance - using ECL logic as an example).

The return current flows through any nearby conductors; at high frequencies,
most of the return current is through the closest conductor(s).

If this happens to be a reference plane, that's where it goes. If it is the
complementary signal line, that's where it goes.

You can construct a differential pair out of two separate traces that are
far apart from one another, in which case each one has a return current in
its neighboring plane(s) (which happens to roughly equal the signal current
in the opposite trace). The two currents in the plane are opposite and
would cancel at low frequencies, but at high frequencies the return current
is confined to the space "under" each trace and does not cancel, so in
effect you have a circulating loop of return current in the planes, of
magnitude equal to the signal current.

In the other extreme, you can also construct a differential pair out of two
traces that are tightly coupled to one another (such as broadside coupled)
and further away from reference planes, in which case each line's "return"
current is the other line's signal current and there is no significant
current in the planes.

Differential pairs have both a differential (odd-mode) impedance and a
common-mode (even-mode) impedance. The two examples could have the same
differential impedance but very different even-mode impedances.

If you route two 50 ohm traces over ground planes, you'd get slightly less
than 100 ohms differential impedance. To get closer to 100 ohms, you need
to keep them further apart, in which case most of the return current remains
in the planes. To get more cancellation of the plane's return current, you
need them closer together, which reduces the differential impedance (you
would need to use >50 ohm traces to get 100 ohms differential).

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