Wires and cables play an indispensable role in the electrical and electronic industry. It goes without saying where there is electricity, the wires and cables are always there. Wires and cables have a wide range of applications. Often, these two terms are used interchangeably. However, there is a significant difference between the two. Understanding this difference is essential to determine which one will cater effectively to the electrical requirements. In this article, you will learn about the fundamental difference between a wire and a cable.
A wire is made up of a single or, at times, multiple strands of a conductor. The conductor is usually composed of aluminum or copper. Wires consist of a single conductor only. Wires are generally bare or twisted but also sometimes covered with a protective layer or color-coated sheath. The diameter of a wire is measured with a gauge number. The smaller the gauge number, the thicker the wire. The ideal gauge number of wires for residential purposes falls between 10 and 20.
Bigger wires are used to carry more current, and therefore, they are unfit for residential applications. They can damage household appliances by burning the fuse.
The primary purpose of a wire is to bear mechanical loads, carry electricity and telecommunication signals. The two common types of electrical wires include the following:
- Solid Wire: It is composed of a single conductor which can be either protected, bare or coated in the color sheath. Solid wires offer low resistance. They are ideally used in high frequencies.
- Standard wire: It is made up of thin wire strands which are twisted together. Standard wires are used for their flexibility and can last for many years. As compared to solid wire, the standard wire has a large cross-sectional area.
Unlike wire, a cable consists of two or more insulated conductors. Often a pair of insulated conductors twisted together are also called a cable. A cable usually consists of three wires. The hot wire carries the current while the neutral one completes the loop. The classification of a cable depends upon the number of wires and their gauge. The purpose of a cable is to transmit power, signals and carry electricity. There are four main types of cables which are as following:
Twisted pair cable
As the name suggests, a twisted pair cable is made up of two twisted cables. Usually, this type of cable is used to carry signals as it minimizes the noise produced by magnetic coupling. The most common areas of application of twisted-pair cables include data and telecommunications industries.
Multiple conductor cable
A multi-conductor cable has two or multiple insulated conductors used for the protection of signal integrity. It is important to note that both twisted pair cable and multi-conductor cable are alternatively known as balanced line configuration cables.
Just like other cables, the coaxial cable consists of two conductors. One is an inner conductor, and the other is an outer foil conductor that surrounds the inner one. An insulating dielectric separates both these conductors from each other. It is also known as an unbalanced line. The performance of a coaxial cable is much more stable than a twisted pair cable. The most common application of coaxial cable is television.
Fiber optic cable
Fiber optic cable consists of a bunch of glass threads that are used for signal transmission. These glass threads have a higher bandwidth than metal conductors. They have more capacity to transmit information and data. They are also less susceptible to interference. This is why fiber optic cables are becoming increasingly popular.
A fiber optic cable is further divided into plastic fiber cable, multimode fiber, and single-mode fiber. Fiber optic cables are more expensive than all other types of cables.
As we have gone through an overview of the differences between wires and cables, let us go through their advantages.
Advantage of Wire
Wires are ideal in cases where transmission of high frequencies is required. They have low resistance and are quite cost-friendly. Also, a standard wire is highly resistant to metals.
Advantage of Cable
Cables are highly durable. They have great strength. Cables are also heavy-duty and well insulated.
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