Asea Brown Boveri Ltd. (ABB) Award 2005 - Emmanuel Marthe
31.12.05 - Power line communications : analyse des problèmes de compatibilité électromagnétique dans le domaine des courants porteurs en ligne. Thesis EPFL, n° 3166 (2005). Dir.: Prof. F. Rachidi-Haeri.
Pour l'intérêt marqué de la combinaison des fonctions énergétiques et de communication des lignes de transmission en vue de leur sécurité et de fonctions domestiques.
Power line communications : analyse des problèmes de compatibilité électromagnétique dans le domaine des courants porteurs en ligne
With the deregulation of the electricity and telecommunications markets, a great deal of new operators providing some innovative services have appeared. In the telecommunications' field, the promise of broadband Internet access with easy installation procedure at low cost may help to win new customers. The Power Line Communications (PLC) technology is a way to fulfil this function. PLC uses the low voltage (LV) and the medium voltage (MV) networks as communication support. It consists in an additional signal carrying data information and superimposed to the 50 Hz power wave. As PLC is easy to install, it can be used to extend the Internet coverage to areas that are still badly covered by the other broadband technologies, or to provide high speed Internet access to every power socket of a building.
This thesis, done as a part of research project called Digital Power Line Access, is devoted to the study of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) aspects involved with the PLC. There are still a certain number of problems due to the fact that PLC, which is a quite recent technology, has not been regulated yet. Among these problems, all the aspects associated with the radiation created by the transmission of PLC signals over unshielded conductors and their potential disturbances are very significant.
The aim of this thesis is the analysis of PLC data transmission over the low voltage network and the related EMC problems, mainly the radiation due to the transmission of PLC signals. The measurement and the analysis of these radiations lead us to develop a method to reduce these radiations. The mitigation of radiation created by the use of PLC within buildings is still an important EMC challenge, because there are no possibilities for network conditioning.
The first part of this thesis presents a state of the art of PLC, its regulation and the related EMC problems, describes the working of PLC and emphasizes the hostile nature of its environment. The problems (filtering, attenuation, generation of noise, ...) caused by the use of a signal in the [1 - 30 MHz] band over a channel designed for a 50 Hz power wave are presented. On the other hand, the various technologies used to allow the PLC to work (suitable modulation scheme, use of repeater, ...) are illustrated. An analysis of the different PLC concepts and of the successful and unfruitful commercial deployment ends this chapter.
We then present the technical criterion (use of the PLC as a multi-purpose port: as a main port and as a telecommunication port) that we have to consider and the evolution of the conducted and radiated limits that we have to respect. The pollution of the radio amateur band, which could be the result of a massive deployment of PLC, is the subject of tremendous discussions and proves that if according to some persons the current limits are too permissive, for the PLC manufacturer they are already too restrictive. The coexistence of the PLC with other broadband technologies (xDSL, CA-TV, Wireless, ...) is also addressed and we show that only the coexistence with an alternative of the DSL - VDSL - could be problematic.
The main original contributions of this thesis are presented in the second part of this thesis. We concentrated on the problems related to the electromagnetic radiations associated with PLC signals, especially in indoor environment. The reason for this is that the emission of electromagnetic noise, which can interfere with services such as public and amateur radio, remains an obstacle to the development of PLC. Furthermore, to the best of our knowledge, the mitigation of indoor radiation has not been addressed in the literature.
A complete characterization of the problems resulting from the use of PLC in an indoor environment is presented. Two approaches are presented for the measurement of electromagnetic fields. The first one consists in the injection of a reference signal in the network and the measurement of the resulting radiations. The second one deals with the measurements of interferences due to the work of real PLC equipments. These two approaches enlight several aspects. The main aspect is the strong dispersion of the measurements, resulting from the influence of the position of the observation point and of the power network load. Measurements on real PLC networks show excessive radiations, which confirm that the limits are, at this time, too restrictive.
We present a technique for the analysis of power line communication (PLC) signals, based on the formalism of the scattering parameters. This technique allows an efficient and fast characterization of any transmission medium of a power network. The analysis of the variations of the magnitude and phase of the scattering parameters gives useful insights on the increasing of the losses with frequency and confirm the need of a technique to reduce impedance mismatch at both injection and reception ports.
We also present some comparisons between the simulations, performed using the Numerical Electromagnetics Code (NEC), of a PLC environment and the experimental data for the total magnetic field. The simulations of simple models give results in good agreement with the experimental data and therefore allow the validation of certain principles. Unfortunately, the simulations on a model of increasing complexity give less satisfactory results. Because of the difficulty to respect the topology of the network and to take into account all of the components of the network coupled with the constraints of NEC, it is extremely difficult to obtain accurate results on the complete PLC band.
The strong electromagnetic radiations appeared as the major problem of this technology. Therefore, the development of a method of mitigation was the logical continuation of this work, especially because there is still no solution to this problem. We developed a technique aiming at reducing the electromagnetic field radiated by indoor PLC signals. This technique is the major original contribution of this thesis and led us to file a patent. The central idea is to take advantage of the additional ground conductor and inject a signal similar to the PLC signal into the ground-neutral line, but with a reversed phase. As a result, the overall antenna mode current is significantly reduced, as well as the radiated electromagnetic fields. The method is specifically developed for indoor applications and applies to uni-directional and bi-directional data transmission systems with an implementation using switches. Experimental data obtained on a test network have shown that the use of the proposed technique implies a significant reduction (up to 20 dB) of the PLC electromagnetic radiation in the considered frequency range.
It is also shown that the performance of the proposed technique increases when the ground-neutral line is terminated by an impedance equal to the one of the PLC modem. Other tests performed on 230 V network confirm this trend but show that further work is needed in this direction. This work could consist in the development of a system allowing the synchronisation of the real PLC signal and the auxiliary signal according to the behavior of the PLC channel, in order to optimise the performances for any frequency used by the PLC.