Fairchild Semiconductor
Application Note
May 2005
Revised May 2005
LVDS Technology Solves Typical EMI Problems
Associated with Cell Phone Cameras and Displays
Differential technologies such as Low Voltage Differential
Signaling (LVDS) will be explained and compared to legacy
single ended LVTTL. Through specific application examples, this article demonstrates the improved spectral content and advantages offered by LVDS technology.
Today’s Cell Phones
Today’s cell phones, that are becoming continuously
smaller and lighter, have an increasing possibility to
adversely affect surrounding devices. This is because of
the increased shear number and opportunity for close proximity to other ultra-portable electronic devices. Twenty
years ago, a cell phone would not be in close proximity to
an implanted defibrillator. Today it can be a common occurrence.
Typical EMI Problems
EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) problems with cell
phones usually fall into one of three categories:
1. Blatant EMI radiation that exceeds regulatory emissions limits during product qualification (FCC,
and ETS/EN testing, etc.).
2. EMI that although meets regulatory requirements, continues to adversely affect devices in close proximity.
3. EMI that adversely affects the cell phone itself through
harmonics and other spurious signals.
Products on the Edge
Cell phones, although usually designed by a single supplier, can be marketed in many countries. Unfortunately,
regulatory requirements vary from country to country, and
often one country does not recognize the standards or test
results of another country. For example, a cell phone must
undergo EMI testing for the requirements of each respective country. A device that “squeaks by” regulatory testing
in one country, may barely fail in another country. Commonly, the same product design may be marketed under
separate model numbers to reflect the different EMI testing,
and can include minor circuit changes to allow regulatory
compliance for a specific locale.
Harmonics and Why They are Bad
in Cell Phone Applications
Harmonics are exact multiples of a fundamental frequency.
As an example, a square wave clock operating at 100MHz
in a cell phone can have visible harmonics on a spectrum
analyzer at 300MHz, 500MHz, and 700MHz. Additional
peaks are often seen with the spectrum analyzer but may
represent additional spurious signals as a result of a local
parasitic oscillation or signal reflection. Unfortunately, in
this example of a 100MHz clock in a cell phone, a harmonic
may exist at 700MHz and at 900MHz. According to the
FCC Frequency Allocation Table dated April 13, 2004,
900MHz is the frequency utilized by fixed land mobile sta© 2005 Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation
tions and 700MHz is allocated to fixed mobile broadcasting. In this case, a cell phone with a noisy clock will likely
interfere with these mobile stations and nothing else.
The realistic application of this cell phone clock may not be
a perfect 100MHz. It may be off slightly, say 97MHz. In this
case, the 9th harmonic winds up at 873MHz. The FCC frequency allocation table identifies 873MHz as nearly the
middle of the cell phone frequency band. This means that
the clock frequency of this cell phone can dramatically
reduce the sensitivity of the cell phone receiver itself,
potentially rendering it inoperative.
LVDS Technology
LVDS technology is a comparatively new technology that is
rapidly replacing legacy TTL or LVTTL technologies. LVDS
is a standards-based technology that utilizes two conductor
paths rather than one as with TTL or LVTTL. At first glance,
it may seem inefficient to utilize two conductors rather than
one, however this two conductor system has the distinct
advantage of operating at much higher speeds than its predecessor. It should be noted that with either TTL or LVTTL,
a second conductor exists that is actually the power
ground. The architecture of the LVDS technology is such
that the two wires will utilize opposing polarities that will
change at the same time based on a change with the data
input. This means that the two wires (or other medium such
as flex circuit wires, twisted pair of wires, etc.) will have
opposing currents during the polarity change. The opposing currents in effect cancel each other so that the net current change is comparatively quite small. It is this
advantage, combined with the fact that the voltage swing is
typically 350mV, rather than 3.3V or 5.0V with TTL, that
results in significantly reduced overall current change, ultimately resulting in less EMI.
Compare and Contrast Typical
Application Emissions with
As a means of directly comparing technologies, a test was
designed to compare only the interface technologies. The
remaining parameters, equipment, and test environment
remain the same. In this case the parameters were a single
bit, 100MHz, repetitive square wave, and the transmission
medium was a 10cm flex circuit. 10cm represents a typical
length found in many cell phones available today. Identical
circuit boards were fabricated with the exception being 1
set utilized LVDS devices and the second set utilized
LVTTL devices. Figure 1 shows the test set-up.
AN-5059 LVDS Technology Solves Typical EMI Problems Associated with Cell Phone Cameras and Displays
Compare and Contrast Typical Application Emissions with LVTTL to
FIGURE 1. Test Set-up
Measurement Technique
Classical emissions testing involve a Faraday cage with a
spectrum analyzer with antenna sets for a given band. This
method is highly effective for far field highly sensitive measurements wherein the circuit boards, cable lengths, and
over all product design can have a dramatic impact resulting in a very specific EMI signature for a given product.
This means that two circuit boards may be well behaved
with an interconnect flex cable of 1/2 meter, but a full meter
cable represents an entirely lower 1/4 wavelength resonance point.
A measurement technique that lends itself to the EMI comparison of only different interface technologies where conducted emissions testing are not appropriate, is one called
near field EMI testing (Figure 2). Near field testing involves
placing a calibrated “probe” in close proximity to the transmission medium. This probe, in actuality, is a very small
dipole antenna with a 50: feed point that can be directly
interfaced to a spectrum analyzer. This near field probe can
be used to measure radiated currents that represent actual
radiation, and can be moved to “sniff” out specific radiation
nodes. The near field probe is based on Faraday's induction law, wherein the output voltage of a single turn loop is
proportional to the time rate of change of the total magnetic
flux passing through the loop. A picture of a typical near
field probe is shown in Figure 2.
The spectral content was measured in several different
bands chosen to adequately present magnitudes of harmonics, and not “chop off” any important peaks due to the
bandwidth of the test equipment. It is important to note that
when the spectrum width becomes relatively, large, the
gain becomes offset by a magnitude of 10 on the 95 - 305
and 100 - 1000MHz bands. The spectral content was displayed in three different bands to provide a clear illustration
of the technology differences.
• Appendix 1: LVDS to LVTTL comparison at the fundamental frequency of 100MHz
• Appendix 2: LVDS to LVTTL comparison from 95MHz to
• LVDS to LVTTL comparison from 100MHz to 1000MHz
The spectrum analysis shown in the appendices can be
summarized into Figure 3. At the fundamental frequency,
the emission can be more than 30dB than with LVDS than
with LVTTL. This overall trend continues, but diminishes as
the harmonics approach the noise floor of the measurement equipment.
LVDS, LVTTL Emissions Comparison
Fre que ncy ( Mhz)
3 00
70 0
Ga in in dB
Direct Benefits to Product Design
Using LVDS technology devices in cell phones makes
good sense with the primary benefits:
There are several benefits of utilizing lower emissions components from the inception of a circuit design. Unfortunately, this is often not recognized until after several
iterations of product design.
1. Lower Component Cost: Very often and in order to survive stringent regulatory requirements, many components may be added to quell the adverse effects of
EMI. These components can include ferrite beads/
disks, capacitors, common mode chokes, and even
additional circuit board ground planes. Using LVDS
type technologies can often reduce the number of; if
not completely eliminate these components.
1. There is an incremental product performance improvement. LVDS standards based interface devices, are
designed and characterized to provide excellent signal
integrity well into the 500MB/S data rates and beyond.
2. Due to the improved EMI characteristics of LVDS over
single ended LVTTL technologies, overall product cost
can be reduced. Because fewer problems are left to
solve to meet regulatory standards, a product can pass
a qualification more quickly and the time to market can
be shorter.
3. Because there have been fewer problems to solve to
pass qualification, fewer associated EMI attenuation
components (ferrites, capacitors, etc.) are required to
achieve acceptable regulatory emissions standards.
This means a smaller overall component count per
2. Shorter Product Design Cycles: The time to mitigate
the adverse effects can be substantial. Engineering,
technician, and lab resources can easily be tied up for
Additional benefits exist that are beyond the scope of this
paper. However, the designer is encouraged to look at
parameters such as power consumption and ESD that can
afford additional improvements within cell phones.
Examples of LVDS in Cell Phones
• Data from baseband to display
• Control signals from baseband to display
• Camera pixel clock and data from flip to baseband
Appendix 1
LVDS Spectrum Analysis 95MHz to 105 MHz
TTL Spectrum Analysis 95MHz to 105MHz
Appendix 2
LVDS Spectrum Analysis 95MHz to 305MHz
TTL Spectrum Analysis 95MHz to 305MHz
AN-5059 LVDS Technology Solves Typical EMI Problems Associated with Cell Phone Cameras and Displays
Appendix 3
LVDS Spectrum Analysis 100MHz to 1000MHz
TTL Spectrum Analysis 100MHz to 1000MHz
Fairchild does not assume any responsibility for use of any circuitry described, no circuit patent licenses are implied and
Fairchild reserves the right at any time without notice to change said circuitry and specifications.
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