Definition

Faraday cage

A Faraday cage is a metallic enclosure that prevents the entry or escape of an electromagnetic field (EM field). An ideal Faraday cage consists of an unbroken, perfectly conducting shell. This ideal cannot be achieved in practice, but can be approached by using fine-mesh copper screening. For best performance, the cage should be directly connected to an earth ground.

Faraday cages are used in electronic labs where stray EM fields must be kept out. This is important in the testing of sensitive wireless receiving equipment. In addition, a Faraday cage can prevent the escape of the EM fields emitted by a cathode-ray-tube (CRT) computer monitor. Such fields can be intercepted and translated to allow hackers to remotely view on-screen data in real time without the need for wires, cables, or cameras. This practice, known as van Eck phreaking, can also be used by government officials to view the computer activities of known criminals and certain criminal suspects.

A heavy-duty Faraday cage can protect against direct lightning strikes. When properly connected to an earth ground, the cage conducts the high current harmlessly to ground, and keeps the EM pulse from affecting personnel or hardware inside.

This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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