I'm a student. I cant understand why we design ground planes to have a easy (low resistance) path for return current..... If the real flow of electrons is from battery (-) to battery (+) we should place a plane in the (+) side of circuit to let the charges flow back more easily...

can someone explain this to me ? i run across an old PCB with a "power plane" instead of "ground plane" and this make more sense considerind the real flow of electrons.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ + and - are just symbols. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eugene Sh.
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:41
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ a) power flow must necessarily be symmetrical, and (b) quite a lot of PCBs have both power and ground planes, it just requires more than 2 layers. \$\endgroup\$
    – pjc50
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Charge carriers are a two-way street! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


In reality you want both if you can. The currents you are talking about have to make it through both sides, not just one.

However, the ground plane is the more important of the two.

The ground plane is the reference voltage for ALL your signals. If a component on the right side of the board has a different reference from one on the left, they lose the ability to communicate with each other. As such it is very important to make that reference plane as "solid", and quiet, as you can.

The supply side, on the other hand, can be much less important. Devices, depending on the technology, can tolerate a significant difference in Vcc across the board and still communicate quite happily.

Further, the ground plane also provides a second function not related to carrying the power currents. The ground plane provides a great deal of EMI control and protection. It helps reduce the emissions from the board and provides a certain amount of shielding.

As such, if you only have the choice of ground or power for a plane layer, you chose ground every time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, ground plane is the more important reference point for most analog circuits. For digital circuits, every gate ought to agree with every other gate where threshold is: that involves the other plane too, equalizing their importance. Then there's differential signals, who care less. \$\endgroup\$
    – glen_geek
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Exception: PECL logic circuits. \$\endgroup\$
    – The Photon
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 22:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @glen_geek true enough, but I'd still want the ground plane over the power plane if I could only pick one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trevor_G
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 22:56
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Trevor Agreed if only one choice. Especially for ancient TTL logic where ground-bounces need consideration. Was thinking more of ubiquitous CMOS logic. ThePhoton makes a good point, although ECL types might be considered sorta-differential. \$\endgroup\$
    – glen_geek
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 23:35

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