The dc resistance of conductors 

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This is the first of two posts on the resistance of conductors.  In the next post I will look at the ac resistance, including skin effect and show how we can deal with this.  To get started, this post will look at the simpler case of dc resistance and how it can be calculated.

DC Resistance to IEC 60287

The international standard for conductors is IEC 60287.  The standard classifies conductors according to four classes:

- Class 1: solid conductors

- Class 2: stranded conductors

- Class 5: flexible conductors

- Class 6: flexible conductors (more flexible than class 5)

For each class of conductor, the standard defines the maximum allowable resistance at 20 oC:

Minimum Resistance of Conductors in mΩ/m
CSA mm² Copper (plain) Copper (tinned) Aluminium
class 1 & 2 class 5 & 6 class 5 & 6 class 1 & 2
0.5 36.0 39.0 40.1 -
0.75 24.5 26.0 26.7 -
1 18.1 19.5 20.0 -
1.5 12.1 13.3 13.7 -
2.5 7.41 7.98 8.21 -
4 4.61 4.95 5.09 -
6 3.08 3.30 3.39 -
10 1.83 1.91 1.95 3.08
16 1.15 1.21 1.24 1.91
25 0.272 0.78 0.795 1.20
35 0.524 0.554 0.565 0.868
50 0.387 0.386 0.393 0.641
70 0.268 0.272 0.277 0.443
95 0.193 0.206 0.210 0.320
120 0.153 0.161 0.164 0.253
150 0.124 0.129 0.132 0.206
185 0.0991 0.106 0.108 0.164
240 0.0754 0.0801 0.0817 0.125
300 0.0601 0.0641 0.0654 0.100
400 0.0470 0.0486 0.0495 0.0778
500 0.0366 0.0384 0.0391 0.0605
630 0.0283 0.0287 0.0292 0.0469
800 - - - 0.0367
1000 - - - 0.0291
1200 - - - 0.0247

DC Resistance - calculation

For solid conductors the resistance (theoretically) can also be calculated using the standard formula:


If the length (l) is in metres, cross sectional area, a in m2 (mm2 x10-6) and resistivity ρ in Ω-m, then the Resistance will be in ohms. The resistivity in Ω-m (at 20 oC) for copper is 1.72x10-8 and for aluminium 2.82x10-8.

The above formulae does not take into account manufacturing tolerances, compactness of stranded conductors, etc.  These will result in the calculated resistance differing from any actual measured resistance.  For general use it is probably better to use the figures from the IEC 60287 table, rather than calculation using the above formula.

Temperature dependence

The above values of resistance are based on a temperature of 20 oC.  Resistivity of the conductor will varies with temperature, with the resistance increasing as temperature increases.  This variation can be simplified to a linear function for a reasonable temperature range as follows:


  • R      = the resistance of the conductor at temperature T
  • R20   = conductor resistance at 20 oC
  • T      = operating temperature of the conductor
  • α      = temperature coefficient of resistivity

Actual values of α, depend on the composition of the material in addition to the temperature. For both copper and aluminium, α taken as 0.0039 will give sufficient accuracy for most conductor calculations.

The ac resistance of conductors ->

Steven McFadyen's avatar Steven McFadyen

Steven has over twenty five years experience working on some of the largest construction projects. He has a deep technical understanding of electrical engineering and is keen to share this knowledge. About the author

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  1. Notes's avatar Notes says:
    2/1/2013 10:30 AM

    Trackback from Notes

    IEC 60287 "Calculation of the continuous current rating of cables (100% load factor)" is the International Standard which defines the procedures and equations to be used in determining the current carry capacity of cable. The standard is applicable... ...

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