Time-domain reflectometry

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Signal (or energy) transmitted and reflected from a discontinuity

Time-domain reflectometry or TDR is a measurement technique used to determine the characteristics of electrical lines by observing reflected waveforms.[1] Time-domain transmissometry (TDT) is an analogous technique that measures the transmitted (rather than reflected) impulse. Together, they provide a powerful means of analysing electrical or optical transmission media such as coaxial cable and optical fiber.

Variations of TDR exist. For example, spread-spectrum time-domain reflectometry (SSTDR) is used to detect intermittent faults in complex and high-noise systems such as aircraft wiring.[2] Coherent optical time domain reflectometry (COTDR) is another variant, used in optical systems, in which the returned signal is mixed with a local oscillator and then filtered to reduce noise.[3]

The impedance of the discontinuity can be determined from the amplitude of the reflected signal. The distance to the reflecting impedance can also be determined from the time that a pulse takes to return. The limitation of this method is the minimum system rise time. The total rise time consists of the combined rise time of the driving pulse and that of the oscilloscope or sampler that monitors the reflections.


The TDR analysis begins with the propagation of a step or impulse of energy into a system and the subsequent observation of the energy reflected by the system. By analyzing the magnitude, duration and shape of the reflected waveform, the nature of the impedance variation in the transmission system can be determined.

Resistive load[edit]

If a pure resistive load is placed on the output of the reflectometer and a step signal is applied, a step signal is observed on the display, and its height is a function of the resistance. The magnitude of the step produced by the resistive load may be expressed as a fraction of the input signal as given by:

where is the characteristic impedance of the transmission line.

Reactive load[edit]

For reactive loads, the observed waveform depends upon the time constant formed by the load and the characteristic impedance of the line.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Furse, Cynthia, Lo, Chet. "Reflectometry for Locating Wiring Faults". IEEE Transactions on Electromagnetic Compatibility. February, 2005
  2. ^ Smth,Paul, Furse, Cynthia and Gunther, Jacob. "Analysis of Spread Spectrum Time Domain Reflectometry for Wire Fault Location Archived 2011-02-12 at WebCite." IEEE Sensors Journal. December, 2005.
  3. ^ José Chesnoy (ed.), Undersea Fiber Communication Systems, Elsevier Science, 2002, ISBN 0-12-171408-X, p.171 (COTDR)

External links[edit]