Introduction to PCB Inductance
Printed Circuit Board (PCB) inductance is a crucial factor in designing highspeed electronic circuits. It refers to the property of a PCB trace to oppose changes in electric current flowing through it, leading to voltage drops and signal integrity issues. Accurately calculating the inductance of a PCB Trace is essential for optimizing circuit performance, minimizing electromagnetic interference (EMI), and ensuring reliable operation.
In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the methods and techniques used to calculate the inductance of PCB traces. We will explore the factors that influence PCB inductance, the mathematical formulas involved, and practical examples to help you understand and apply these concepts in your own PCB Designs.
Factors Affecting PCB Inductance
Several factors contribute to the inductance of a PCB trace. Understanding these factors is crucial for accurate inductance calculations and optimizing PCB layouts. Let’s explore each of these factors in detail:
Trace Length
The length of a PCB trace directly impacts its inductance. As the trace length increases, so does its inductance. This is because a longer trace allows for a greater amount of magnetic flux to be generated around it when current flows through it. The relationship between trace length and inductance is linear, meaning doubling the trace length will also double its inductance.
Trace Width
The width of a PCB trace also plays a significant role in determining its inductance. A wider trace has a lower inductance compared to a narrower trace of the same length. This is because a wider trace offers a larger crosssectional area for current flow, reducing the current density and the associated magnetic field. However, it’s important to note that increasing the trace width also increases the capacitance between the trace and the ground plane, which can affect the overall circuit performance.
Trace Thickness
The thickness of a PCB trace, also known as its height above the ground plane, influences its inductance. A thicker trace has a lower inductance compared to a thinner trace of the same length and width. This is because a thicker trace allows for a more evenly distributed current flow, reducing the current density and the associated magnetic field. However, increasing the trace thickness also increases the manufacturing complexity and cost of the PCB.
Dielectric Constant
The dielectric constant of the PCB Substrate material affects the inductance of the traces. A higher dielectric constant results in a lower trace inductance. This is because a higher dielectric constant reduces the velocity of the electromagnetic waves propagating along the trace, effectively reducing the inductance. Common PCB substrate materials, such as FR4, have a dielectric constant of approximately 4.5 at high frequencies.
Ground Plane Proximity
The proximity of a PCB trace to the ground plane influences its inductance. A trace closer to the ground plane has a lower inductance compared to a trace farther away from the ground plane. This is because the closer proximity to the ground plane allows for better coupling and a more efficient return path for the current, reducing the overall inductance. It’s important to maintain a consistent tracetoground plane distance throughout the PCB design to minimize variations in inductance.
Mathematical Formulas for PCB Inductance
To accurately calculate the inductance of a PCB trace, several mathematical formulas can be used. These formulas take into account the physical dimensions of the trace, the properties of the PCB substrate material, and the proximity to the ground plane. Let’s explore some of the commonly used formulas:
Microstrip Inductance Formula
The microstrip inductance formula is used for calculating the inductance of a trace on a PCB with a single ground plane. It takes into account the trace width, trace thickness, and the dielectric constant of the substrate material. The formula is as follows:
L = 0.2 × ln(2 × l / (w + t)) × l × 10^9 [H/m]
Where:
– L is the inductance per unit length [H/m]
– l is the trace length [m]
– w is the trace width [m]
– t is the trace thickness [m]
Stripline Inductance Formula
The stripline inductance formula is used for calculating the inductance of a trace embedded between two ground planes in a PCB. It takes into account the trace width, trace thickness, the dielectric constant of the substrate material, and the distance between the trace and the ground planes. The formula is as follows:
L = 0.2 × ln(2 × b / (w + t)) × l × 10^9 [H/m]
Where:
– L is the inductance per unit length [H/m]
– l is the trace length [m]
– w is the trace width [m]
– t is the trace thickness [m]
– b is the distance between the trace and the ground planes [m]
Coplanar Waveguide Inductance Formula
The coplanar waveguide inductance formula is used for calculating the inductance of a trace surrounded by ground planes on the same layer of a PCB. It takes into account the trace width, the gap between the trace and the ground planes, and the dielectric constant of the substrate material. The formula is as follows:
L = 0.2 × ln((2 × s + w) / w) × l × 10^9 [H/m]
Where:
– L is the inductance per unit length [H/m]
– l is the trace length [m]
– w is the trace width [m]
– s is the gap between the trace and the ground planes [m]
Practical Examples
To better understand how to calculate the inductance of PCB traces, let’s consider a few practical examples:
Example 1: Microstrip Trace
Consider a microstrip trace on an FR4 PCB with the following specifications:
– Trace length (l) = 50 mm
– Trace width (w) = 0.5 mm
– Trace thickness (t) = 0.035 mm
Using the microstrip inductance formula:
L = 0.2 × ln(2 × 0.05 / (0.0005 + 0.000035)) × 0.05 × 10^9 [H/m]
= 0.2 × ln(200) × 0.05 × 10^9 [H/m]
= 0.2 × 5.298 × 0.05 × 10^9 [H/m]
= 0.53 nH
The inductance of the microstrip trace is approximately 0.53 nH.
Example 2: Stripline Trace
Consider a stripline trace on an FR4 PCB with the following specifications:
– Trace length (l) = 75 mm
– Trace width (w) = 0.3 mm
– Trace thickness (t) = 0.018 mm
– Distance between trace and ground planes (b) = 0.2 mm
Using the stripline inductance formula:
L = 0.2 × ln(2 × 0.0002 / (0.0003 + 0.000018)) × 0.075 × 10^9 [H/m]
= 0.2 × ln(1.25) × 0.075 × 10^9 [H/m]
= 0.2 × 0.223 × 0.075 × 10^9 [H/m]
= 0.33 nH
The inductance of the stripline trace is approximately 0.33 nH.
Example 3: Coplanar Waveguide Trace
Consider a coplanar waveguide trace on an FR4 PCB with the following specifications:
– Trace length (l) = 100 mm
– Trace width (w) = 0.8 mm
– Gap between trace and ground planes (s) = 0.2 mm
Using the coplanar waveguide inductance formula:
L = 0.2 × ln((2 × 0.0002 + 0.0008) / 0.0008) × 0.1 × 10^9 [H/m]
= 0.2 × ln(1.5) × 0.1 × 10^9 [H/m]
= 0.2 × 0.405 × 0.1 × 10^9 [H/m]
= 0.81 nH
The inductance of the coplanar waveguide trace is approximately 0.81 nH.
PCB Inductance Optimization Techniques
To minimize the inductance of PCB traces and improve overall circuit performance, several optimization techniques can be employed. Let’s explore some of these techniques:
Minimize Trace Length
One of the most effective ways to reduce PCB trace inductance is to minimize the trace length. Shorter traces have lower inductance, so it’s important to place components as close together as possible and route traces in the most direct path. This not only reduces inductance but also minimizes signal delays and improves signal integrity.
Increase Trace Width
Increasing the width of PCB traces can help reduce their inductance. Wider traces have a larger crosssectional area, allowing for a more evenly distributed current flow and reducing the current density. However, it’s important to balance trace width with other design considerations, such as component placement, routing space, and manufacturing constraints.
Use Thicker Traces
Using thicker PCB traces can also help reduce inductance. Thicker traces have a larger crosssectional area, similar to wider traces, and allow for a more evenly distributed current flow. However, increasing trace thickness also increases the manufacturing complexity and cost of the PCB, so it’s important to find the right balance based on the specific design requirements.
Minimize TracetoGround Plane Distance
Reducing the distance between PCB traces and the ground plane can help lower inductance. A closer proximity to the ground plane allows for better coupling and a more efficient return path for the current. It’s important to maintain a consistent tracetoground plane distance throughout the PCB design to minimize variations in inductance.
Use HighFrequency Laminate Materials
Using highfrequency laminate materials with a lower dielectric constant can help reduce PCB trace inductance. These materials have a lower dielectric constant compared to standard FR4, which results in a higher velocity of propagation and lower inductance. However, highfrequency laminates are more expensive than FR4, so their use should be justified based on the specific design requirements.
Implement Ground Planes
Implementing ground planes in the PCB design can significantly reduce trace inductance. Ground planes provide a lowimpedance return path for the current, minimizing the loop area and reducing the overall inductance. It’s important to ensure proper grounding techniques, such as using multiple vias to connect traces to the ground plane, to maximize the benefits of ground planes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is PCB inductance, and why is it important?
PCB inductance refers to the property of a PCB trace to oppose changes in electric current flowing through it. It is important because it can lead to voltage drops, signal integrity issues, and electromagnetic interference (EMI) in highspeed electronic circuits. Accurately calculating and minimizing PCB inductance is crucial for optimizing circuit performance and ensuring reliable operation. 
What factors affect the inductance of a PCB trace?
Several factors influence the inductance of a PCB trace, including:  Trace length: Longer traces have higher inductance.
 Trace width: Wider traces have lower inductance.
 Trace thickness: Thicker traces have lower inductance.
 Dielectric constant: Higher dielectric constant materials result in lower inductance.

Ground plane proximity: Traces closer to the ground plane have lower inductance.

How can I calculate the inductance of a microstrip trace on a PCB?
To calculate the inductance of a microstrip trace, you can use the following formula:
L = 0.2 × ln(2 × l / (w + t)) × l × 10^9 [H/m]
Where L is the inductance per unit length, l is the trace length, w is the trace width, and t is the trace thickness. 
What are some techniques to reduce PCB trace inductance?
Some techniques to reduce PCB trace inductance include:  Minimizing trace length by placing components close together and routing traces directly.
 Increasing trace width to reduce current density and inductance.
 Using thicker traces to reduce current density and inductance.
 Minimizing the distance between traces and the ground plane for better coupling.
 Using highfrequency laminate materials with a lower dielectric constant.

Implementing ground planes to provide a lowimpedance return path for the current.

How does the proximity of a PCB trace to the ground plane affect its inductance?
The proximity of a PCB trace to the ground plane has a significant impact on its inductance. Traces closer to the ground plane have lower inductance because the closer proximity allows for better coupling and a more efficient return path for the current. It’s important to maintain a consistent tracetoground plane distance throughout the PCB design to minimize variations in inductance.
Conclusion
Calculating the inductance of PCB traces is a critical aspect of designing highspeed electronic circuits. By understanding the factors that influence PCB inductance, such as trace length, width, thickness, dielectric constant, and ground plane proximity, designers can make informed decisions to optimize their PCB layouts. Mathematical formulas, such as the microstrip, stripline, and coplanar waveguide inductance formulas, provide a way to accurately calculate the inductance of PCB traces based on their physical dimensions and properties.
To minimize PCB trace inductance and improve overall circuit performance, several optimization techniques can be employed. These include minimizing trace length, increasing trace width, using thicker traces, minimizing tracetoground plane distance, using highfrequency laminate materials, and implementing ground planes. By applying these techniques and carefully considering the specific design requirements, designers can create PCBs with optimized inductance characteristics, leading to improved signal integrity, reduced EMI, and reliable operation of highspeed electronic circuits.