The **characteristic impedance** or **surge impedance** (usually written Z_{0}) of a uniform "transmission line is the ratio of the amplitudes of voltage and current of a single wave propagating along the line; that is, a wave travelling in one direction in the absence of "reflections in the other direction. Characteristic impedance is determined by the geometry and materials of the transmission line and, for a uniform line, is not dependent on its length. The "SI unit of characteristic "impedance is the "ohm.

The characteristic impedance of a lossless transmission line is purely real, with no "reactive component. Energy supplied by a source at one end of such a line is transmitted through the line without being dissipated in the line itself. A transmission line of finite length (lossless or lossy) that is terminated at one end with an impedance equal to the characteristic impedance appears to the source like an infinitely long transmission line and produces no reflections.

The characteristic impedance of a transmission line is the ratio of the voltage and current of a wave travelling along the line. When the wave reaches the end of the line, in general, there will be a reflected wave which travels back along the line in the opposite direction. When this wave reaches the source, it adds to the transmitted wave and the ratio of the voltage and current at the input to the line will no longer be the characteristic impedance. This new ratio is called the "input impedance. The input impedance of an infinite line is equal to the characteristic impedance since the transmitted wave is never reflected back from the end. It can be shown that an equivalent definition is: the characteristic impedance of a line is that impedance which when terminating an arbitrary length of line at its output will produce an input impedance equal to the characteristic impedance. This is so because there is no reflection on a line terminated in its own characteristic impedance.

Applying the transmission line model based on the "telegrapher's equations, the general expression for the characteristic impedance of a transmission line is:

where

- is the "resistance per unit length, considering the two conductors to be "in series,
- is the "inductance per unit length,
- is the "conductance of the dielectric per unit length,
- is the "capacitance per unit length,
- is the "imaginary unit, and
- is the "angular frequency.

Although an infinite line is assumed, since all quantities are per unit length, the characteristic impedance is independent of the length of the transmission line.

The voltage and current "phasors on the line are related by the characteristic impedance as:

where the superscripts and represent forward- and backward-traveling waves, respectively. A surge of energy on a finite transmission line will see an impedance of *Z*_{0} prior to any reflections arriving, hence *surge impedance* is an alternative name for characteristic impedance.

The analysis of lossless lines provides an accurate approximation for real transmission lines that simplifies the mathematics considered in modeling transmission lines. A lossless line is defined as a transmission line that has no line resistance and no "dielectric loss. This would imply that the conductors act like a perfect conductors and the dielectric act like a perfect dielectric. For a lossless line, *R* and *G* are both zero, so the equation for characteristic impedance derived above reduces to:

The above expression is wholly real, since the imaginary term *j* has canceled out, implying that *Z _{0}* is purely resistive. For a lossless line terminated in

The solutions to the long line transmission equations include incident and reflected portions of the voltage and current:

When the line is terminated with its characteristic impedance, the reflected portions of these equations are reduced to 0 and the solutions to the voltage and current along the transmission line are wholly incident. Without a reflection of the wave, the load that is being supplied by the line effectively blends into the line making it appear to be an infinite line. In a lossless line this implies that the voltage and current remain the same everywhere along the transmission line. Their magnitudes remain constant along the length of the line and are only rotated by a phase angle.

In "electric power transmission, the characteristic impedance of a transmission line is expressed in terms of the **surge impedance loading** (**SIL**), or natural loading, being the power loading at which "reactive power is neither produced nor absorbed:

in which is the line-to-line "voltage in "volts.

Loaded below its SIL, a line supplies reactive power to the system, tending to raise system voltages. Above it, the line absorbs reactive power, tending to depress the voltage. The "Ferranti effect describes the voltage gain towards the remote end of a very lightly loaded (or open ended) transmission line. "Underground cables normally have a very low characteristic impedance, resulting in an SIL that is typically in excess of the thermal limit of the cable. Hence a cable is almost always a source of reactive power.

Standard | Impedance (Ω) | Tolerance |
---|---|---|

"Ethernet "Cat.5 | 100 | ±5 Ω^{[1]} |

"USB | 90 | ±15%^{[2]} |

"HDMI | 95 | ±15%^{[3]} |

"IEEE 1394 | 108 | +3 −2% ^{[4]} |

"VGA | 75 | ±5%^{[5]} |

"DisplayPort | 100 | ±20%^{[3]} |

"DVI | 95 | ±15%^{[3]} |

"PCIe | 85 | ±15%^{[3]} |

- "Ampère's circuital law
- "Characteristic acoustic impedance
- "Electrical impedance
- "Maxwell's equations
- "Transmission line
- "Wave impedance
- "Space cloth

**^**"SuperCat OUTDOOR CAT 5e U/UTP" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-16.**^**"USB in a NutShell—Chapter 2—Hardware". Beyond Logic.org. Retrieved 2007-08-25.- ^
^{a}^{b}^{c}^{d}https://www.nxp.com/documents/application_note/AN10798.pdf (PDF) modified 2011-07-04 **^**http://materias.fi.uba.ar/6644/info/reflectometria/avanzado/ieee1394-evalwith-tdr.pdf (PDF), modified 2005-06-11**^**http://www.promusic.cz/soubory/File/Downloads/Data%20sheet/Klotz/Kabely%20pro%20video/VMM5FL__e.pdf (PDF) modified 2009-12-07

- Guile, A. E. (1977).
*Electrical Power Systems*. "ISBN "0-08-021729-X. - Pozar, D. M. (February 2004).
*Microwave Engineering*(3rd ed.). "ISBN "0-471-44878-8. - Ulaby, F. T. (2004).
*Fundamentals Of Applied Electromagnetics*(media ed.). Prentice Hall. "ISBN "0-13-185089-X.

This article incorporates "public domain material from the "General Services Administration document "Federal Standard 1037C".