## The power handling capability of coaxial cable

The power handling capability of coaxial cable is dependent either on its maximum voltage-withstanding capability for the transmission of peak power or on its thermal dissipation ability for average power transmission, which is the more common problem for RF applications.

The thermal dissipation of cable depends upon its thermal resistance. For a cable in air, the thermal resistance of the surrounding air is related to the condition and radiation losses and dependent upon the surface area of the cable, the temperature of the surfaces, the ambient temperature, emissivity of the surface, and the flow of air.

The amount of heat which flows radially from the line will depend upon the composite thermal resistivity of the dielectric and insulating material of the cable, and the temperature gradients therein. The heat generated within a cable is given by the ratio of temperature rise between the inner conductor and the ambient temperature to its thermal resistance, which is equal to the difference of the input power and the output power in a matched system. The ratio of these powers is a function of the attenuation per unit length, which is directly proportional to the heat generated in the cable.

For any particular cable construction, the average power rating will depend on the permissible temperature rise above a stated ambient which is limited by the maximum operating temperature that the dielectric can withstand. The generally accepted maximum operating temperature for polyethylene is 80°C and for PTFE is 250°C. Simply stated, power handling of a coaxial cable is a function of attenuation and the temperature of the dielectric. The higher the operating frequency, the lower the power handling capability.

The chart references the maximum power handling capability at various frequencies for MIL-DTL-17 cables and Harbour’s special cable constructions at 25°C temp and sea level.