Wire - Solid Versus Stranded

Solid Versus Stranded

Solid wire, also called solid-core or single-strand wire, consists of one piece of metal wire. Stranded wire is composed of a bundle of wires to make a larger conductor.

Stranded wire is more flexible than solid wire of the same total cross-sectional area. Solid wire is cheaper to manufacture than stranded wire and is used where there is little need for flexibility in the wire. Solid wire also provides mechanical ruggedness; and, because it has relatively less surface area which is exposed to attack by corrosives, protection against the environment. Stranded wire is used when higher resistance to metal fatigue is required. Such situations include connections between circuit boards in multi-printed-circuit-board devices, where the rigidity of solid wire would produce too much stress as a result of movement during assembly or servicing; A.C. line cords for appliances; musical instrument cables; computer mouse cables; welding electrode cables; control cables connecting moving machine parts; mining machine cables; trailing machine cables; and numerous others.

At high frequencies, current travels near the surface of the wire because of the skin effect, resulting in increased power loss in the wire. Stranded wire might seem to reduce this effect, since the total surface area of the strands is greater than the surface area of the equivalent solid wire, but ordinary stranded wire does not reduce the skin effect because all the strands are short-circuited together and behave as a single conductor. A stranded wire will have higher resistance than a solid wire of the same diameter because the cross-section of the stranded wire is not all copper; there are unavoidable gaps between the strands (this is the circle packing problem for circles within a circle). A stranded wire with the same cross-section of conductor as a solid wire is said to have the same equivalent gauge and is always a larger diameter.

However, for many high-frequency applications, proximity effect is more severe than skin effect, and in some limited cases, simple stranded wire can reduce proximity effect. For better performance at high frequencies, litz wire, which has the individual strands insulated and twisted in special patterns, may be used.

Further information: Copper wire and cable#Types of copper wire and cable

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