What is an AirCore Inductor?
An aircore inductor is a passive electronic component that consists of a coil of wire wound around a nonmagnetic support structure, such as a plastic or ceramic form. The absence of a magnetic core distinguishes aircore inductors from other types of inductors, such as ferritecore or ironcore inductors.
The inductance of an aircore inductor is determined by the geometry of the coil, including the number of turns, the diameter of the coil, and the spacing between the turns. The inductance can be calculated using the following formula:
L = (μ₀ × N² × A) / l
Where:
– L is the inductance in henries (H)
– μ₀ is the permeability of free space (4π × 10⁻⁷ H/m)
– N is the number of turns
– A is the crosssectional area of the coil in square meters (m²)
– l is the length of the coil in meters (m)
Advantages and Disadvantages of AirCore Inductors
Aircore inductors offer several advantages over inductors with magnetic cores:

High Qfactor: Aircore inductors have a higher quality factor (Qfactor) compared to inductors with magnetic cores, as they do not suffer from core losses. The Qfactor is a measure of the inductor’s efficiency and is defined as the ratio of the inductor’s reactance to its resistance.

Low parasitic capacitance: The absence of a magnetic core reduces the parasitic capacitance between the turns of the coil, resulting in a higher selfresonant frequency (SRF). This makes aircore inductors suitable for highfrequency applications.

Linearity: Aircore inductors exhibit a linear relationship between current and magnetic flux, as there is no risk of core saturation. This linearity is essential for applications that require a constant inductance value over a wide range of currents.
However, aircore inductors also have some disadvantages:

Lower inductance: For a given size, aircore inductors have a lower inductance compared to inductors with magnetic cores. This is because the magnetic field is not confined within a core material, resulting in a lower magnetic flux density.

Larger size: To achieve the same inductance value as an inductor with a magnetic core, an aircore inductor requires a larger number of turns and a larger coil diameter. This results in a larger physical size, which may be a constraint in spacelimited applications.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI): The absence of a magnetic core means that the magnetic field generated by an aircore inductor is not contained within the component. This can lead to increased electromagnetic interference, which may affect nearby components or circuits.
Designing an AirCore Inductor
When designing an aircore inductor, several factors must be considered to achieve the desired inductance value and performance characteristics.
Coil Geometry
The geometry of the coil is the primary determinant of an aircore inductor’s inductance. The three main parameters that influence the inductance are:

Number of turns: Increasing the number of turns in the coil will increase the inductance, as it increases the magnetic flux generated by the current flowing through the coil. However, adding more turns also increases the coil’s resistance and parasitic capacitance, which can reduce the Qfactor and lower the SRF.

Coil diameter: A larger coil diameter will result in a higher inductance, as it increases the crosssectional area of the coil. However, increasing the coil diameter also increases the physical size of the inductor, which may be a constraint in some applications.

Turn spacing: The spacing between the turns of the coil affects both the inductance and the parasitic capacitance. Wider turn spacing reduces the parasitic capacitance, leading to a higher SRF, but also reduces the inductance for a given number of turns and coil diameter.
To optimize the coil geometry for a specific application, designers can use inductance calculators or simulation software to model the inductor’s performance. These tools take into account the various design parameters and help identify the most suitable coil geometry for the desired inductance and frequency range.
Wire Selection
The choice of wire for an aircore inductor is crucial, as it affects the inductor’s resistance, currentcarrying capacity, and mechanical stability. The main factors to consider when selecting the wire are:

Wire gauge: The wire gauge determines the crosssectional area of the wire and, consequently, its resistance and currentcarrying capacity. A larger wire gauge (smaller AWG number) will have a lower resistance and higher currentcarrying capacity, but it will also increase the physical size of the inductor.

Wire material: The most common materials for inductor wires are copper and silverplated copper. Copper is the standard choice for most applications, as it offers a good balance of conductivity, cost, and ease of handling. Silverplated copper is used in highfrequency applications, as the silver plating reduces the skin effect and improves the Qfactor.

Insulation: The wire insulation must be suitable for the intended application and operating environment. Common insulation materials include enamel, polyurethane, and Teflon. The insulation thickness and dielectric constant affect the parasitic capacitance of the inductor, which should be minimized for highfrequency applications.
Support Structure
The support structure for an aircore inductor provides mechanical stability and maintains the desired coil geometry. The choice of material for the support structure depends on the application requirements, such as temperature range, chemical resistance, and dielectric properties.
Common materials for aircore inductor support structures include:

Plastic: Plastics, such as nylon, Teflon, and Delrin, are widely used for their low cost, ease of machining, and good dielectric properties. However, plastics may not be suitable for hightemperature applications or environments with high levels of chemical exposure.

Ceramic: Ceramic materials, such as alumina and steatite, offer excellent hightemperature performance and good dielectric properties. They are more expensive than plastics and require specialized machining techniques.

3Dprinted materials: 3D printing technology has enabled the rapid prototyping and production of custom support structures for aircore inductors. Materials such as ABS, PLA, and PETG can be used to create complex geometries and integrate features such as mounting holes and connector pins.
Practical Applications of AirCore Inductors
Aircore inductors are used in a wide range of electronic applications, particularly in highfrequency circuits where their low parasitic capacitance and high Qfactor are essential.
Radio Frequency (RF) Circuits
Aircore inductors are commonly used in RF circuits, such as antennas, filters, and matching networks. In these applications, the inductor’s high Qfactor and low parasitic capacitance are critical for achieving the desired frequency response and minimizing signal loss.
Examples of RF applications for aircore inductors include:

Antenna matching networks: Aircore inductors are used to match the impedance of an antenna to the impedance of the transmitter or receiver, ensuring maximum power transfer and minimum signal reflection.

RF filters: Aircore inductors are used in conjunction with capacitors to create highfrequency filters, such as lowpass, highpass, and bandpass filters. These filters are essential for selecting the desired frequency range and rejecting unwanted signals.

RF chokes: Aircore inductors are used as RF chokes to block highfrequency signals while allowing lowfrequency or DC currents to pass through. This is important for isolating different stages of an RF circuit and preventing unwanted interference.
Resonant Circuits
Aircore inductors are used in resonant circuits, where they are combined with capacitors to create a tuned circuit that resonates at a specific frequency. Resonant circuits are used in various applications, such as oscillators, tuned amplifiers, and Wireless Power Transfer systems.
Examples of resonant circuit applications for aircore inductors include:

LC oscillators: Aircore inductors are used in conjunction with capacitors to create LC oscillators, which generate sinusoidal signals at a specific frequency. The high Qfactor of aircore inductors helps maintain the oscillator’s frequency stability and reduces phase noise.

Tuned amplifiers: Aircore inductors are used in tuned amplifier circuits to selectively amplify signals at a specific frequency while attenuating signals at other frequencies. This is important for applications such as radio receivers, where the desired signal must be amplified while rejecting interference from adjacent channels.

Wireless power transfer: Aircore inductors are used in wireless power transfer systems, such as those found in smartphones and electric toothbrushes. The inductors are used to create a resonant circuit that efficiently transfers power between the transmitter and receiver coils, enabling contactless charging.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the difference between an aircore inductor and an inductor with a magnetic core?
Aircore inductors do not have a magnetic core material, while inductors with magnetic cores use materials such as ferrite or iron to concentrate the magnetic field. Aircore inductors have a lower inductance for a given size but offer a higher Qfactor and lower parasitic capacitance compared to inductors with magnetic cores. 
How do I calculate the inductance of an aircore inductor?
The inductance of an aircore inductor can be calculated using the formula: L = (μ₀ × N² × A) / l, where L is the inductance in henries (H), μ₀ is the permeability of free space (4π × 10⁻⁷ H/m), N is the number of turns, A is the crosssectional area of the coil in square meters (m²), and l is the length of the coil in meters (m). 
What factors affect the Qfactor of an aircore inductor?
The Qfactor of an aircore inductor is influenced by several factors, including the wire material, wire gauge, coil geometry, and operating frequency. Using a larger wire gauge, optimizing the coil geometry, and selecting a suitable wire material (e.g., silverplated copper for highfrequency applications) can help improve the Qfactor. 
Can I use an aircore inductor in a highpower application?
Aircore inductors can be used in highpower applications, but the wire gauge and coil geometry must be carefully selected to ensure sufficient currentcarrying capacity and heat dissipation. In some cases, inductors with magnetic cores may be more suitable for highpower applications, as they can achieve higher inductance values in a smaller physical size. 
How do I minimize the electromagnetic interference (EMI) generated by an aircore inductor?
To minimize EMI generated by an aircore inductor, consider the following strategies:  Use a toroidal coil geometry to contain the magnetic field better
 Ensure proper grounding and shielding of the inductor and surrounding components
 Minimize the length of the inductor leads and route them away from sensitive components
 Use EMI suppression techniques, such as ferrite beads or shielding materials, to attenuate highfrequency noise
Conclusion
Aircore inductors are essential components in many electronic applications, particularly in highfrequency circuits where their high Qfactor and low parasitic capacitance are invaluable. By understanding the fundamentals of aircore inductor design, including coil geometry, wire selection, and support structure, engineers and hobbyists can create custom inductors tailored to their specific application requirements.
When designing an aircore inductor, it is essential to consider factors such as the desired inductance value, operating frequency range, and physical size constraints. Using inductance calculators and simulation software can help optimize the inductor’s performance and ensure compatibility with the overall circuit design.
As technology advances and new materials and manufacturing techniques emerge, the possibilities for aircore inductor design will continue to expand. By staying current with the latest developments and best practices, designers can harness the full potential of these versatile components and push the boundaries of highfrequency electronics.