In the electrical field, the terms wire and cable are often confused. There is a significant difference between the two that should be understood when determining your electrical needs.
A wire consists of a single strand or a group of strands of an electrically conductive material (conductor). This material is normally composed of aluminum or copper. Wires can come bare, or covered in a protective or color-coded sheath.
Types of Electrical Wires
There are two main types of wires: solid or stranded.
A solid wire is a single conductor that is either bare or insulated by a protective colored sheath. It offers low resistance and are perfect for use in higher frequencies.
When inside a covering there are many thin strands of wires twisted together, it is called a stranded wire. Stranded wires are used where flexibility is important because which the wire can be used for a longer period. This type of wire have larger cross-sectional area than solid wires for the same current carrying capacity.
A cable consists of two or more insulated conductors and can be either bare or covered. This term is also used in reference to a group of insulated conductors that are intertwined or twisted together.
Types of Electrical Cables
There are various types of cables, including twisted pair cable, coaxial cable, multi conductor cable and fiber optic cable.
1. Twisted pair cable – A twisted pair cable has two cables that are twisted across each other. Twisting can avoid noise that produced by magnetic coupling, so this type of cable is best suited for carrying signals. It is generally used in telecommunication and data communication.
2. Multi-conductor cable – Multi conductor cable has two or more conductors that are insulated from each other. Their purpose is to protect signal integrity by reducing hum, noise and crosstalk. Applications include computers, communications, instrumentation, sound, control, audio, and data transmission. Both multi conductor and twisted pair cables are called balanced line configuration cables.
3. Coaxial cable – Coaxial cable is composed of an inner solid conductor surrounded by a paralleled outer foil conductor that is protected by an insulating layer. The two conductors are separated from each other by an insulating dielectric. Coaxial cables are generally used in TV Cable. It is called an unbalanced line as the signal on the two conductors is not same, which result in interference but the performance is more stable than a twisted pair cable.
4. Fiber optics cable – This kind of cable transmits signals by a bundle of glass threads. Fiber optic cables have a much greater bandwidth than metal cables, which means they can carry more data. They are also less susceptible to interference. For these two reasons, fiber optic cables are increasingly being used instead of traditional copper cables despite that they are expensive.
Wire vs. Cable
Whether it's a single strand or multiple strands grouped together, if there is only one conductor it is a wire. Likewise, if there are multiple conductors, but they have no insulation around them, they would be classified as a single conductor, making it a wire.
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