Electronic – Why is noise is considered to be a “Common Mode Signal”


I learnt that the magnetic interference due to the Earth causes noise in the cable but I wonder why this is considered to be a 'Common Mode Signal' and why differential amplifiers are used to eliminate it?

Best Answer

Firstly, this picture below hopefully explains why a differential signalling receiver will cancel out interference (or noise) on both wires: -

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It's a simple case of A minus B i.e. the noise/interference gets cancelled but the wanted signal gets left intact.

Secondly, when an interference source is some distance away from the two-wire cable, it largely inflicts noise equally onto both conductors hence the noise is called "common-mode". When a noise source is much closer to one wire than the other there will be a noticibly differential noise signal and this isn't so easily dealt with by a receiving differential amplifier.

So, you have common-mode noise and differential noise and to make the incident noise only (mainly) have common-mode effects you need to do several of the things below: -

  • Use matched impedances to ground so that any influence from noise sees equal impedances to ground thus, one wire does not naturally receive a larger noise signal than the other.
  • Keep the noise source as far from the cable as possible
  • Use differentail signalling to improve signal level amplitude (reduce SNR)
  • Use twisted pair so that magnetic noise induces the same voltage on both wires. This also helps a bit with electric field interference.
  • Use a screen so that electric fields couple to the screen and, due to internal capacitances, couple equally to both wires.
  • Use a receiver that can deal linearly with signal and superimposed noise (transformers are good for this).