Cable (Insulated)

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Infobox on Cable (Insulated)
Example of Cable (Insulated)
Origin -
Stowage factor (in m3/t) -
Humidity / moisture -
Ventilation -
Risk factors Moisture damage, mechanical damage, theft (copper)


A cable is most often two or more wires running side by side and bonded, twisted or braided together to form a single assembly, but can also refer to a heavy strong rope. In mechanics cables, otherwise known as wire ropes, are used for lifting, hauling and towing or conveying force through tension. In electrical engineering cables are used to carry electric currents. An optical cable contains one or more optical fibers in a protective jacket that supports the fibers.

Modern power cables come in a variety of sizes, materials, and types, each particularly adapted to its uses. Large single insulated conductors are also sometimes called power cables in the industry.

Cables consist of three major components: conductors, insulation, protective jacket. The makeup of individual cables varies according to application. The construction and material are determined by three main factors:

  • Working voltage, determining the thickness of the insulation;
  • Current-carrying capacity, determining the cross-sectional size of the conductor(s);
  • Environmental conditions such as temperature, water, chemical or sunlight exposure, and mechanical impact, determining the form and composition of the outer cable jacket.

Cables for direct burial or for exposed installations may also include metal armor in the form of wires spiralled around the cable, or a corrugated tape wrapped around it. The armor may be made of steel or aluminum, and although connected to earth ground is not intended to carry current during normal operation.

Power cables use stranded copper or aluminum conductors, although small power cables may use solid conductors.

The cable may include uninsulated conductors used for the circuit neutral or for ground (earth) connection.

The overall assembly may be round or flat. Non-conducting filler strands may be added to the assembly to maintain its shape. Special purpose power cables for overhead or vertical use may have additional elements such as steel or Kevlar structural supports.

Some power cables for outdoor overhead use may have no overall sheath. Other cables may have a plastic or metal sheath enclosing all the conductors. The materials for the sheath will be selected for resistance to water, oil, sunlight, underground conditions, chemical vapors, impact, or high temperatures. In nuclear industry applications the cable may have special requirements for ionizing radiation resistance. Cable materials may be specified not to produce large amounts of smoke if burned. Cables intended for underground use or direct burial in earth will have heavy plastic or metal, most often lead sheaths, or may require special direct-buried construction. When cables must run where exposed to mechanical impact damage, they may protected with flexible steel tape or wire armor, which may also be covered by a water resistant jacket.

Cables for power distribution of 10kV or higher may be insulated with oil and paper, and are run in a rigid steel pipe, semi-rigid aluminum or lead sheath. For higher voltages the oil may be kept under pressure to prevent formation of voids that would allow partial discharges within the cable insulation.

Modern high-voltage cables use polymers or polyethylene, including XLPE for insulation. They require special techniques for jointing and terminating.

A high-voltage cable - also called HV cable - is used for electric power transmission at high voltage. High-voltage cables of differing types have a variety of applications in instruments, ignition systems, AC and DC power transmission. In all applications, the insulation of the cable must not deteriorate due to the high-voltage stress, ozone produced by electric discharges in air, or tracking. The cable system must prevent contact of the high-voltage conductor with other objects or persons, and must contain and control leakage current. Cable joints and terminals must be designed to control the high-voltage stress to prevent breakdown of the insulation. Often a high-voltage cable will have a metallic shield layer over the insulation, connected to earth ground and designed to equalize the dielectric stress on the insulation layer.

High-voltage cables may be any length, with relatively short cables used in apparatus, longer cables run within buildings or as buried cables in an industrial plant or for power distribution, and the longest cables are often run as submarine cables under the ocean for power transmission.

Like other power cables, high-voltage cables have the structural elements of one or more conductors, insulation, and a protective jacket. High-voltage cables differ from lower-voltage cables in that they have additional internal layers in the insulation jacket to control the electric field around the conductor.

For circuits operating at or above 2,000 volts between conductors, a conductive shield may surround each insulated conductor. The individual conductor shields of a cable are connected to earth ground at the ends of the shield, and at splices. Stress relief cones are applied at the shield ends. Modern high-voltage cables use polymers or polyethylene, including (XLPE) for insulation.

AC power cable High voltage is defined as any voltage over 1000 volts. Cables for 3000 and 6000 volts exist, but the majority of cables are used from 10 kV and upward. Those of 10 to 33 kV are usually called medium voltage cables, those over 50 kV high voltage cables.

Modern HV cables have a simple design consisting of few parts. A conductor of copper or aluminum wires transports the current.

Conductor sections up to 2000 mm2 may transport currents up to 2000 amperes. The individual strands are often preshaped to provide a smoother overall circumference. The insulation may consists of cross-linked polyethylene, also called XLPE. It is reasonably flexible and tolerates operating temperatures up to 120 °C. EPDM is also an insulation.

At the inner and outer sides of this insulation, semi-conducting layers are fused to the insulation. The function of these layers is to prevent air-filled cavities between the metal conductors and the dielectric so that little electric discharges can arise and endanger the insulation material. The outer conductor or sheath serves as an earthed layer and will conduct leakage currents if needed.

HVDC cable Many HVDC cables are used for DC submarine connections, because at distances over 30 km AC can no longer be used. The longest submarine cable today is the NorNed cable between Norway and Holland that is almost 600 km long and transports 700 megawatts, a capacity equal to a large power stations. Most of these long deep-sea cables are made in an older construction, using oil-impregnated paper as an insulator.

Shipment and storage

Normally shipped on drums.

Sometimes, due to side discs or battens of drums having been smashed, the top flakes of coils may become flattened and damaged. Cotton-covered flexible cables are dangerous to use if damaged by water. High tension and medium voltage armoured and unarmoured cables, lead, aluminium or PVC sheathed, do not damage by short contact with water and in most instances even prolonged immersion will adversely affect only about one metre at either end. Ends must be sealed by lead or a suitable plastic compound. The condition of water or physically damaged medium or high voltage cables is determined by megger testing between poles and to earth, minimum test voltage 500 V, maximum 2.500 V; where extra high voltage cables are suspect pressure testing should be carried out.

All electrical cables are somewhat flexible, allowing them to be shipped to installation sites wound on reels or drums. Where applications require a cable to be moved repeatedly, such as for portable equipment, more flexible cables called "cords" or "flex" are used. Flexible cords contain fine stranded conductors, not solid core conductors, and have insulation and sheaths to withstand the forces of repeated flexing and abrasion. Heavy duty flexible power cords such as those feeding a mine face cutting machine are carefully engineered — their life is measured in weeks. Very flexible power cables are used in automated machinery, robotics, and machine tools. See power cord and extension cable for further description of flexible power cables. Other types of flexible cable include twisted pair, extensible, coaxial, shielded, and communication cable.

Drums(Insulated); stow fore and aft, on firm platform, as solid as possible, and chock off with timber to preclude any possibility of movement and chafage. Insulated cable should not be stowed over dry or fine goods, as drainage of the tar from insulating material is to be anticipated in warm weather. The liberal use of sawdust to absorb the tar is advisable to protect wood ceiling. Sling reels by means of stout bar passed through hole in wood core provided for that purpose. Protect wire if exposed from chafing by overstow. In ISO containers, if possible stow fore and aft. May constitute "overheight" cargo especially if carried in half height containers. Good lashings and chocking nailed to container floor.

Risk Factors

  • Moisture damage
  • Mechanical damage
  • Theft (copper)