# PCB Impedance Control

:
Formulas and Resources
Douglas Brooks, President
Many of the formulas we use for PCB impedance
calculations are readily available, but not all of them. In
fact, while we are often quick to say that PCBs begin to
look like transmission lines when rise times are fast enough,
and perhaps toss out a few formulas for our readers, we
miss at least three factors when we do so.
Not complete: It's not enough to say that Zo equals
some complex formula. We may also want to know other
parameters, such as propagation time, intrinsic capacitance,
terminations. I know of no single source where all of these
Too complex: Even if the formulas are available, they
can be so complex that even a person with a considerable
background in mathematics can't use them without an intol-
erable probability of arithmetic error.
Not right form: It is fine, for example, to say that Zo is
some complex function of width, thickness, and height
above the plane. But what if what you really want to know
is what width to use to hit a given Zo? Or what height is
required? Most of our readers are not prepared to tackle
this type of formula manipulation.
the relevant formulas into one place, along with source
references, and (2) show you where there are several, free
resources available for dealing with them.
The formulas
Figure 1 provides the basic formulas for Zo (in Ohms),
Co (in pf/in) and Tpd (ns/in) for the most common PCB
trace configurations. While many sources have some of
these formulas, I only know of one source (footnote 1) that
contains all of them. One note, however, about embedded
microstrip. The adjustment for the relative dielectric coeffi-
cient is reasonable if the material above the trace is more
than 4 mils thick and is of the same dielectric coefficient as
the material below the trace. If the thickness is less than
that, or if the dielectric coefficient is lower than the material
below the trace, the actual result will be between those
calculated for microstrip and for embedded microstrip.
Note also that the embedded microstrip configuration,
for infinite embedding, is the same as asymmetric stripline
with one plane infinitely far away. Yet the formulas, while
close, do not give identical results in this cases. This illus-
trates the problem with all these formulas. They are approxi-
mations and are based on simplifying assumptions. But they
are only guides; none will give exact results. If exact results
are really important, get your board fabricator on board early
in the design process and rely on their expertise.
Almost all references point out that for a transmission
line, Zo is the square root of Lo/Co. (Figure 2a) Therefore,
the intrinsic inductance, Lo, can be calculated as shown in
Figure 2b. At least one source provides the formula shown in
Figure 2c for calculating the inductance of a flat trace over a
plane.(footnote 2) The results of these two formulas for
microstrip can differ by as much as 10%, which illustrates
again that all these formulas are approximations based on
simplifying assumptions, and different approaches can
(a)
Zo
Lo
Co
·
Ohms
(b)
Lo Co Zo · *
2
pH/in
(c)
L Ln
Pi H
W
·
F
H
G
I
K
J
5
2
*
* *
nH/in
Figure 2
Formulas for trace impedance
Devices placed along a trace add capacitance. This
Tpd. The correction factor is the square root of (1 +
Cd/Co*l) where Cd is the sum of the capacitive loads
and l is the length of the trace (Figure 3a). The correc-
tion factors for Zo and Tpd are shown in Figure 3b and
3c.
These adjustments are correct for parallel termina-
tions and they are found in most references. Motorola
has a complicated derivation that shows an additional
effect from series termination. (Footnote 3). The theory
is complex, but fundamentally involves the fact that the
( )
( )

,
`

.
|
+
+
·
T W
T H
Ln Z
r 8 .
2 9 . 1 60
0
ε

,
`

.
|
+ +
·
T W
H
Ln Z
r 8 .
98 . 5
41 . 1
87
0
ε
Stripline
Microstrip
)] 8 /(. 98 . 5 [
) 41 . 1 ( 67 .
0
T W H Ln
C
r
+
+
·
ε
)] 8 /(. 81 . 3 [
41 . 1
0
T W H Ln
C
r
+
·
ε
]
]
]

+ +

]
]
]

+
+
·
) ( 4
1
) 8 (.
) 2 ( 9 . 1 80
0
T C H
H
T W
T H
Ln Z
r
ε
Dual or Asymmetric Stripline
)] 335 . 268 /(. ) ( 2 [
82 . 2
0
T W T H Ln
C
r
+ −
·
ε
W
H
T
H
W
H
T
C
T
H1
H
W
T
H
Embedded Microstrip
.67 + .475 1.017 = t r pd ε
r pd 1.017 = t ε
r pd 1.017 = t ε
]
]
]

]
]
]

+
+
·
) 1 ( 4
1
) 8 (.
) 2 ( 9 . 1 80
0
H
H
T W
T H
Ln Z
r
ε
]
]
]

,
`

.
| −
− ·
H
H
r r
1 55 . 1
exp 1 ' ε ε
W
|
T
H1
H
|

,
`

.
|
+
·
T W
H
Ln Z
r 8 .
98 . 5
'
60
0
ε
)] 8 /(. 98 . 5 [
) ' ( 41 . 1
0
T W H Ln
C
r
+
·
ε
' .08475 = t r pd ε
First, let:
Figure 1
Formulas for impedance calculations. Units for Zo, Co, and Tpd are Ohms, Pf/in, and ns/in, respectively.
Transmission Line Formulas
somewhat slowing down the rise time, and therefore the
propagation time, of the trace. The adjusted correction
factor for series termination is shown in Figure 3d. Note
that in all these cases the adjustment factor collapses to 1.0
if Cd = 0.
Finally, the voltage reflection coefficient, ρ, of a
transmission line is given by
ρ = (R
L
- Zo)/(R
L
+ Zo)
One characteristic of a transmission line is that if it is
terminated in a resistive load equal to its characteristic
impedance (Zo), a signal traveling down the trace will be
completely absorbed by the load and not reflect back. If
the trace is left open at the far end (R
L
is infinite), the
signal reflects back with the same polarity and magnitude.
But if the trace is shorted at the far end (R
L
= 0 and
therefore ρ = -1), the signal reflects back with the same
magnitude but the opposite polarity.
The Resources
sheet to make these calculations. An example is shown in
Figure 4a and the formulas for row 14 are shown in
Figure 4b.(footnote 4) These formulas can simply be
copied to additional rows to show the effects of a wide
range of relative dielectric coefficients. Building a spread-
sheet has the added benefit that you can build graphs to
( ) l Co
Cd
*
1 +
( ) l Co
Cd
t t
pd pd
*
1 ' + ·
1 1
*
1 * 2 +
]
]
]
]

,
`

.
|
+
l Co
Cd
l * Co
Cd
+ 1
Zo
= Zo'
(a) Correction Factor
(b) Impact on Zo
(c) Impact on Tpd
(d) Correction Factor for
Series Termination
Figure 3
illustrate various relationships, and solve for any variable
(perhaps, though, through an interative process).
Barry Olney has an interactive web site where you can
enter various parameters, and it will display the impedance of
the various trace layers. The web site can be found at
www.icd.com.au/board/board.html.
Polar Instruments, Ltd. has a freeware Windows calcula-
tor that allows you to calculate several trace parameters given
the others. You can obtain this calculator at www.polar.co.uk
that you need to enter the data in mils or mm or significant
round off error may result.
UltraCAD Design, Inc. has a freeware Windows calcula-
tor that has all the formulas contained in this article, and that
can solve for virtually any parameter given the others. It also
has a help file that discusses the formulas and their sources.
"calculators."
Note: The article, as published, contained illustrations of
these last three resources. The illustrations have been omitted
here because the pictures added almost 900k to the .pdf file!
Summary
Articles and seminars have shown you the significance,
importance, and impact of transmission lines on PCBs. The
formulas and their sources are summarized here, but can
admittedly be difficult to use. There are, however, several
freeware resources available to you on the web and elsewhere
that can simplify this task. The only thing left is for you to
Footnotes
1. IPC-D-317, April, 1990, “Design Guidelines for Electronic
Packaging Utilizing High-Speed Techniques”, pp. 17-25.
2. Ott, Henry, “Noise Reduction Techniques in Electronics,”
Wiley Interscience, 1988, p. 281
3. “MECL System Design Handbook,” Rev. 1, Motorola
Semiconductor Products, Inc. 1988, p. 157
4. These formulas are correct for Quattro Pro and for Lotus
1-2-3. They might need some very minor adjustments for
B14 2
C14 87*@LN(5.98*\$D\$5/(0.8*\$D\$7+\$D\$6))/(B14+1.41)^0.5
D14 0.67*(B14+1.41)/@LN(5.98*\$D\$5/(0.8*\$D\$7+\$D\$6))
E14 1.017*(0.475*B14+0.67)^0.5
F14 12/E14
G14 (C14^2)*D14/1000
I14 60*@LN((4*(2*\$D\$5+\$D\$6))/(0.67*3.14159*(0.8*\$D\$7+\$D\$6)))/((B14)^0.5)
J14 1.41*B14/@LN(3.81*\$D\$5/(0.8*\$D\$7+\$D\$6))
K14 1.017*(B14)^0.5
L14 12/K14
M14 (I14^2)*J14/1000
O14 80*(1-\$D\$5/(4*(\$D\$5+\$D\$8+\$D\$6))))*@LN(1.9*(2*\$D\$5+\$D\$6)/(0.8*\$D\$7+\$D\$6))/(B14)^0.5
P14 2.82*B14/@LN(2*(\$D\$5-\$D\$6)/(0.268*\$D\$7+0.335*\$D\$6))
Figure 4b
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Figure 4a Spreadsheet can be used for impedance calculations

08475 Stripline ε r' Z0 = C0 =  1.9 ( 2 H + T )    80 H Ln   1 − 4 ( H + C + T )  εr  (. 8W + T )    2 . 8W + T )] Z0 = W T H t pd = 1.67 Embedded Microstrip W First. 268 W + . 55 H 1   ε r ' = ε r 1 − exp   H    60  5 .41  .017 εr Figure 1 Formulas for impedance calculations. 8W + T 1 . 67 ( ε r + 1 .8W + T  . 8W + T Z 0 =    )] T H | H1 | t pd = . 98 H /(. 41 ) C0= Ln [ 5 . 98 H /(.9 ( 2 H + T )    80 H Ln   1 − 4 ( H 1 )  εr  (. and Tpd are Ohms. 8W + T )] W H T H t pd = 1.017 εr Dual or Asymmetric Stripline Z0 = Z0 = C 0 W H T C T H  1 .475 ε r + .9(2 H + T )  60  Ln εr  (. 335 T )] H1 = t pd = 1. 41 ( ε r ' ) C0= Ln [ 5 . .8W + T )    1 . Co. respectively. 8 W + T )     1 . 82 ε r Ln [ 2 ( H − T ) /(. Units for Zo. Pf/in. 41 ε r Ln [ 3 . and ns/in.017 . 81 H /(. let:   − 1 .Transmission Line Formulas Microstrip 87  5 .98 H  Ln   ε r + 1 . 98 H Ln  εr'  .

679 55.002 67.350 9.317 84.093 82.373 1.795 Figure 4a Spreadsheet can be used for impedance calculations .009 0.888 69.343 8.345 3.294 1.281 2.142 7.183 9.327 7.183 9.286 3.010 8.299 1.2 2.270 9.0076 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Tp ns/ft Tp in/ns Inductance (nH/in) 9.327 Stripline Zo Co Tp ns/ft Tp in/ns Inductance (nH/in) Dual Stripline Zo Co 1.779 dialectric coeff Microstrip Zo (Ohms) Co (pf/in) 2.073 2.433 2.0 2.446 58.474 1. Enter data in inches.327 7.327 7.0008 0.3 85. etc.508 1.1 2.451 3.955 7.137 9.791 64.920 81.013 56.183 59.177 2. Zo is in ohms Co is capacitance (pf)/inch Tp is propagation delay in ns/ft I J K L M N O P let: h= t= w= c= 0.384 1.615 3.313 1.183 9.01 0.339 65.336 1.B C D E F G H This program is set up to calculate various impedances and capacitances associated with strip lines.542 8.332 1.438 1.780 7.262 1. microstrips.