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Electrical devices have become an important part of our daily lives and this means we are continuously surrounded by wires and cables. Whilst we may see and use these components each and every day, many of us do not know that they are two distinctly different things. Whilst they may look similar, cables and wires differ in their composition, function and general purpose. The following is an outline of these components and how they differ from each other.
Wires can be categorised as a single strand or multiple strands of a conductive material. Wires are manufactured from a variety of electrical conductive metals but the most common types are copper and aluminium. Copper is used most often because it has a low resistance and is fairly cheap when compared with other alternatives. There are two types of wires which are used, solid and stranded. Solid wires consist of a single conductor and is usually bare or sometimes placed within an insulated sheath. Solid wires are relatively cheap to manufacture and are incredibly versatile. They also benefit from a low surface area, meaning they are less likely to be damaged by their environment. The second type is stranded wire, which consists of two or more conductors which are placed or twisted together to form a single wire. Although more expensive to make, stranded wires are much more flexible than their solid wire counterpart and can therefore be utilised for different applications. This unique design also means that stranded wires tend to have a longer lifespan.
The term cable is used to represent multiple wires which are placed together and usually insulated. The wires can be combined in a variety of different ways, whether braided, twisted or bonded. We are more likely to interact with cables within daily life as these are usually the components which connect our electronic devices to each other or a power source. There are many different types of cables to choose from but the main types include: Twisted Pair Cable Twisted pair cables consist of two different cables which are twisted across each other. This design is successful in reducing interference from magnetic coupling and is therefore popular within data or communication applications. Multi-conductor Cable This design features multiple conductors which are all insulated from each other, within the same cable. Following the same theory behind twisted pair cables, this helps to prevent interference, such as noise, hum or crosstalk. Multi-conductor cables are utilised within applications such computing, sound and data. Co-axial Cables Co-axial cables feature a more complex design which consists of four distinct layers. An inner conductor is surrounded by an insulating material, this is then contained within a conductive metal shield and the entire component is protected within the standard plastic insulator. The design of this type of cable prevents 'leakage' and therefore makes it ideal for weak signals which are prone to deterioration. The metallic shield also helps to protect the inner conductor from outside interference. This particular type of cable is usually used for applications such as internet and television. Fibre optic Cables Fibre optic cables differ greatly in their design when compared with other cable types. These cables consists of multiple glass or plastic fibres which are bundled together. Light is encoded with information and then sent down these cables, received at the other end and then decoded. Compared with standard conductors, light can carry much more information and therefore have greater bandwidth. This makes them perfect for carrying an internet or television signal.