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How FlatWire Works

FlatWire and Electricity
This FlatWire is ready for the mesh tape and concealing compound treatment.
This FlatWire is ready for the mesh tape and concealing compound treatment.

FlatWire comes in several different types. The speaker wire and low-voltage wire products look like a pair of copper strips encased in a transparent film. The other FlatWire products have narrower bands of copper encased in film. Depending on the wire's function, there may be one, two or three separate bands of copper. These narrow bands aren't straight sheets of copper in a film -- they look like waves or a series of peaks and valleys.

Copper is a conductor -- that means electricity can flow freely through it. Copper's atomic structure is what makes it a good conductor. The electrons in the outer energy level of a copper atom repel one another and are relatively free. If you introduce a flow of electrons into one end of a copper wire, these valence electrons pass from atom to atom. The result is a domino effect of electrons moving from one end of the copper wire to another. The flow of electrons is what we call electricity.

Each band is actually several layers of copper sheets separated by an adhesive that acts as a dielectric layer. We call a material dielectric if it doesn't conduct electricity but does support electrostatic fields. In other words, it's an insulator. We use the term dielectric when we're dealing with materials that prevent conductive surfaces from coming into contact with one another, usually in a capacitor.

The number of layers in each copper band depends upon the purpose of the FlatWire. While it's possible to create a multipurpose FlatWire that can meet multiple needs, Southwire elected to design specific wires for specific uses. The company did this to make installation easier and safer for the average consumer -- there's a smaller chance that a consumer will ­damage his or her electrical equipment or suffer an injury.

Southwire's proposed 120 VAC FlatWire would have five layers. Think of the layers like a sandwich. The central layer is the hot layer. This is the layer that carries electrons from a power source to a device. The layers on either side of this central band of copper are the neutral layers. These provide electrons with a normal pathway out from the device. The outermost layers are the ground wires. The ground wire prevents electronic devices with metal casings from becoming shock hazards -- the ground wire connects to the metal exterior of the device on one end and the ground on the other.