EMI shielding is everywhere. Most business leaders, however, haven’t given much thought to EMI shielding and likely couldn’t define the technology if pressed. The same people have probably contemplated the dangers of living or working near electric power lines. They may also have read stories about cell phone emissions and wondered if they needed to protect themselves (they don’t).
EMI shielding — using a barrier to reduce electromagnetic radiation within a space — plays a bigger role in our day-to-day lives and is utilized by more industries than you might expect. EMI shielding uses substances like copper, graphene, paint and even fabric to create a protective barrier around a device and nullify radiation. The market demand for EMI shielding technology is surging. A 2020 study found that the global EMI shielding market will grow from $6.2 billion in 2021 to $7.7 billion in 2026.
EMI shielding isn’t a niche technology or something that might catch on. It’s a big business with opportunities and applications in many industries. Chances are you’re already using it without even realizing it. Here are five key industries where EMI shielding is used — and why it’s critical to our future.
1. Consumer Electronics
Most of us are exposed to EMI shielding technology via consumer electronics. A recent Markets & Markets report states that the EMI shielding business is growing exponentially because of consumer electronics and networks. Smartphones use innocuous EMI shielding to block electromagnetic radiation and eliminate interference to phones. EMI shielding is also critical for many wearables, which do everything from tracking your pulse or hours of sleep to counting the number of daily steps you take. Companies are working with modified fabrics that can block electromagnetic rays, which could be the next level of wearable tech. The more our world continues on a path where many people have a nearly symbiotic relationship with their electronics and consumer technology, the more critical EMI shielding becomes.
Chances are you’ve driven past a cell tower trying to pass itself off as a tree. These towers have become more ubiquitous as we require robust digital networks — there were more than 417,000 cell towers in the U.S. as of 2020. The cell phones and wearables we all depend on would not work without access to wireless networks. EMI shielding makes sure radiation from wireless cell towers is kept in check, and that network interruptions are infrequent. 5G networks, for example, are built on delicate systems that must be protected. EMI shielding can prevent damage to the networks, whether from radiation or the environment (outdoor EMI shielding does both). This protective shield means fewer service interruptions and better connections — for streaming that 4K HD movie at home.
3. Cars And Airplanes
If you’ve purchased a vehicle in the past five years, it doesn’t resemble the old Honda you had in the garage in the 1990s. A high-tech 2021 car features a GPS, satellite radio and Bluetooth, all of which allow you to connect your phone and devices and more. None of these devices could work well in your car without EMI shielding, especially since they also compete with electromagnetic rays from other passengers’ laptops, smartphones and iPads. EMI shielding allows a technological symphony to take place each time you put your keys in the ignition or work on your laptop in-flight. EMI shielding is also essential for electric vehicles, which are, according to SSP, Inc., “more susceptible to electromagnetic interference” than gas-operated vehicles “because they put significant amounts of electrical and electronic content into confined spaces.” Performance, as well as safety, can decline in the absence of proper EMI shielding.
While you probably haven’t been in the cockpit of a plane since you were a kid, EMI shielding is also critical for airplanes. Airplanes have always needed to ensure that nothing interferes with vital navigating technology. Shielding is an even more significant concern as airplanes now compete with far more signals via consumer technology. EMI shielding is a foundational piece of safe airline travel.
It’s no surprise that the defense industry is one of the key buyers of EMI shielding. Technology like drones, military computers and even equipment like tanks and helicopters emit a massive volume of electromagnetic radiation. These devices and vehicles are responsible for protecting military service members and sensitive data, so seamless operations are paramount. EMI shielding allows it to happen.
5. Wind Turbines And Electrical Grids
EMI shielding also helps protect wind turbines and the electrical grid. The company of which I am Chairman and CEO, Nanotech Energy, has designed an EMI shielding paint for turbines that can reduce electromagnetic interference, as well as prevent overheating.
The Future Of EMI Shielding
While EMI shielding is paramount across industries, challenges are ahead. Companies design new consumer technology every day. It will be a race to ensure proper EMI shielding is available for the constant churn of new tech products and vehicles. Additionally, EMI shielding companies must continue to innovate — the paint shielding mentioned above is an excellent example of the next level of development.
EMI shielding may still be unknown to a vast number of the population, but expect it to come into much greater focus in the coming years, both as a business story and a necessity. It’s not just a nice extra; it’s the technology “glue” that allows our connected lives to take place safely each day.