Faraday cage

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A Faraday cage or Faraday shield is an enclosure formed by conducting material or by a mesh of such material. Such an enclosure blocks out external static electric fields. Faraday cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.[1]

A Faraday cage's operation depends on the fact that an external static electrical field will cause the electrical charges within the cage's conducting material to redistribute themselves so as to cancel the field's effects in the cage's interior. This phenomenon is used, for example, to protect electronic equipment from lightning strikes and other electrostatic discharges.

Faraday cages cannot block static and slowly varying magnetic fields, such as Earth's magnetic field (a compass will still work inside). To a large degree though, they also shield the interior from external electromagnetic radiation if the conductor is thick enough and any holes are significantly smaller than the radiation's wavelength. For example, certain computer forensic test procedures of electronic components or systems that require an environment devoid of electromagnetic interference may be conducted within a screen room. These screen rooms are essentially work areas that are completely enclosed by one or more layers of fine metal mesh or perforated sheet metal. The metal layers are grounded to dissipate any electric currents generated from the external electromagnetic fields and thus block a large amount of the electromagnetic interference. See also electromagnetic shielding.

The reception of external radio signals, a form of electromagnetic radiation, through an antenna within a cage can be greatly attenuated or even completely blocked by the cage itself.



In 1836, Michael Faraday observed that the charge on a charged conductor resided only on its exterior and had no influence on anything enclosed within it. To demonstrate this fact, he built a room coated with metal foil and allowed high-voltage discharges from an electrostatic generator to strike the outside of the room. He used an electroscope to show that there was no electric charge present on the inside of the room's walls.

The same effect was predicted earlier by Francesco Beccaria (1716–1781) at the University of Turin, a student of Benjamin Franklin, who stated that "all electricity goes up to the free surface of the bodies without diffusing in their interior substance." Later, the Belgian physicist Louis Melsens (1814–1886) applied the principle to lightning conductors. A closely related concept is that of the Gaussian surface, discovered by Carl Friedrich Gauss.

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