Electrical engineering

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Electrical engineering
Occupation
NamesElectrical engineer
Activity sectors
Electronics, Electrical circuit, Electromagnetics, Power engineering, Electrical Machines, Telecommunication
Description
Competenciestechnical knowledge, management skills, design (see also Glossary of electrical and electronics engineering)
Fields of
employment
technology, science, exploration, military, industry
Some electrical engineers design complex power systems on a macroscopic level. Power plant.jpg
Some electrical engineers design complex power systems on a macroscopic level.
Electrical engineers also design microscopic electronic devices and electronic circuitry, which achieved the record setting length of 1 nanometer for a single logic gate. Silego clock generator.JPG
Electrical engineers also design microscopic electronic devices and electronic circuitry, which achieved the record setting length of 1 nanometer for a single logic gate.

Electrical engineering is a technical discipline concerned with the study, design and application of equipment, devices and systems which use electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. It emerged as an identified activity in the latter half of the 19th century after commercialization of the electric telegraph, the telephone, and electrical power generation, distribution and use.

Electricity Physical phenomena associated with the presence and flow of electric charge

Electricity is the set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and motion of matter that has a property of electric charge. In early days, electricity was considered as being unrelated to magnetism. Later on, many experimental results and the development of Maxwell's equations indicated that both electricity and magnetism are from a single phenomenon: electromagnetism. Various common phenomena are related to electricity, including lightning, static electricity, electric heating, electric discharges and many others.

Electronics physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter

Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter.

Electromagnetism Branch of science concerned with the phenomena of electricity and magnetism

Electromagnetism is a branch of physics involving the study of the electromagnetic force, a type of physical interaction that occurs between electrically charged particles. The electromagnetic force is carried by electromagnetic fields composed of electric fields and magnetic fields, is responsible for electromagnetic radiation such as light, and is one of the four fundamental interactions in nature. The other three fundamental interactions are the strong interaction, the weak interaction, and gravitation. At high energy the weak force and electromagnetic force are unified as a single electroweak force.

Contents

Electrical engineering is now divided into a wide range of fields including, computer engineering, power engineering, telecommunications, radio-frequency engineering, signal processing, instrumentation, and electronics. Many of these disciplines overlap with other engineering branches, spanning a huge number of specializations including hardware engineering, power electronics, electromagnetics and waves, microwave engineering, nanotechnology, electrochemistry, renewable energies, mechatronics, and electrical materials science. See glossary of electrical and electronics engineering.

Computer engineering discipline integrating computer science and electrical engineering to develop computer hardware and software

Computer engineering is a branch of engineering that integrates several fields of computer science and electronic engineering required to develop computer hardware and software. Computer engineers usually have training in electronic engineering, software design, and hardware-software integration instead of only software engineering or electronic engineering. Computer engineers are involved in many hardware and software aspects of computing, from the design of individual microcontrollers, microprocessors, personal computers, and supercomputers, to circuit design. This field of engineering not only focuses on how computer systems themselves work but also how they integrate into the larger picture.

Power engineering subfield of electrical engineering, which deals with power generation, conversion, storage, transport and forwarding in electrical networks and use of electrical energy

Power engineering, also called power systems engineering, is a subfield of electrical engineering that deals with the generation, transmission, distribution and utilization of electric power, and the electrical apparatus connected to such systems. Although much of the field is concerned with the problems of three-phase AC power – the standard for large-scale power transmission and distribution across the modern world – a significant fraction of the field is concerned with the conversion between AC and DC power and the development of specialized power systems such as those used in aircraft or for electric railway networks. Power engineering draws the majority of its theoretical base from electrical engineering.

Telecommunication Transmission of information between locations using electromagnetics

Telecommunication is the transmission of signs, signals, messages, words, writings, images and sounds or information of any nature by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic systems. Telecommunication occurs when the exchange of information between communication participants includes the use of technology. It is transmitted through a transmission media, such as over physical media, for example, over electrical cable, or via electromagnetic radiation through space such as radio or light. Such transmission paths are often divided into communication channels which afford the advantages of multiplexing. Since the Latin term communicatio is considered the social process of information exchange, the term telecommunications is often used in its plural form because it involves many different technologies.

Electrical engineers typically hold a degree in electrical engineering or electronic engineering. Practising engineers may have professional certification and be members of a professional body or an international standards organization. These include the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) (formerly the IEE). The IEC prepares international standards for electrical engineering, developed through consensus, thanks to the work of 20,000 electrotechnical experts, coming from 172 countries worldwide.

An academic degree is a qualification awarded to students upon successful completion of a course of study in higher education, usually at a college or university. These institutions commonly offer degrees at various levels, usually including bachelor's, master’s and doctorates, often alongside other academic certificates and professional degrees. The most common undergraduate degree is the bachelor's degree, although in some countries there are lower level higher education qualifications that are also titled degrees.

Professional certification, trade certification, or professional designation, often called simply certification or qualification, is a designation earned by a person to assure qualification to perform a job or task. Not all certifications that use post-nominal letters are an acknowledgement of educational achievement, or an agency appointed to safeguard the public interest.

International Electrotechnical Commission organization

The International Electrotechnical Commission is an international standards organization that prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies – collectively known as "electrotechnology". IEC standards cover a vast range of technologies from power generation, transmission and distribution to home appliances and office equipment, semiconductors, fibre optics, batteries, solar energy, nanotechnology and marine energy as well as many others. The IEC also manages four global conformity assessment systems that certify whether equipment, system or components conform to its international standards.

Electrical engineers work in a very wide range of industries and the skills required are likewise variable. These range from circuit theory to the management skills of a project manager. The tools and equipment that an individual engineer may need are similarly variable, ranging from a simple voltmeter to a top end analyzer to sophisticated design and manufacturing software.

Project manager professional in the field of project management

A project manager is a professional in the field of project management. Project managers have the responsibility of the planning, procurement and execution of a project, in any undertaking that has a defined scope, defined start and a defined finish; regardless of industry. Project managers are first point of contact for any issues or discrepancies arising from within the heads of various departments in an organization before the problem escalates to higher authorities.

Voltmeter instrument used for measuring electrical potential difference

A voltmeter is an instrument used for measuring electrical potential difference between two points in an electric circuit. Analog voltmeters move a pointer across a scale in proportion to the voltage of the circuit; digital voltmeters give a numerical display of voltage by use of an analog to digital converter.

History

Electricity has been a subject of scientific interest since at least the early 17th century. William Gilbert was a prominent early electrical scientist, and was the first to draw a clear distinction between magnetism and static electricity. He is credited with establishing the term "electricity". [2] He also designed the versorium: a device that detects the presence of statically charged objects. In 1762 Swedish professor Johan Wilcke invented a device later named electrophorus that produced a static electric charge. By 1800 Alessandro Volta had developed the voltaic pile, a forerunner of the electric battery.

17th century Century

The 17th century was the century that lasted from January 1, 1601, to December 31, 1700. It falls into the Early Modern period of Europe and in that continent was characterized by the Baroque cultural movement, the latter part of the Spanish Golden Age, the Dutch Golden Age, the French Grand Siècle dominated by Louis XIV, the Scientific Revolution, the world's first public company Dutch East India, and according to some historians, the General Crisis. The greatest military conflicts were the Thirty Years' War, the Great Turkish War, Mughal–Safavid Wars (Mughal–Safavid War, Mughal–Safavid War ), Mughal-Maratha Wars, and the Dutch-Portuguese War. It was during this period also that European colonization of the Americas began in earnest, including the exploitation of the silver deposits, which resulted in bouts of inflation as wealth was drawn into Europe.

William Gilbert (astronomer) English physician, physicist and natural philosopher

William Gilbert, also known as Gilberd, was an English physician, physicist and natural philosopher. He passionately rejected both the prevailing Aristotelian philosophy and the Scholastic method of university teaching. He is remembered today largely for his book De Magnete (1600), and is credited as one of the originators of the term "electricity". He is regarded by some as the father of electrical engineering or electricity and magnetism.

Magnetism class of physical phenomena

Magnetism is a class of physical phenomena that are mediated by magnetic fields. Electric currents and the magnetic moments of elementary particles give rise to a magnetic field, which acts on other currents and magnetic moments. The most familiar effects occur in ferromagnetic materials, which are strongly attracted by magnetic fields and can be magnetized to become permanent magnets, producing magnetic fields themselves. Only a few substances are ferromagnetic; the most common ones are iron, cobalt and nickel and their alloys. The prefix ferro- refers to iron, because permanent magnetism was first observed in lodestone, a form of natural iron ore called magnetite, Fe3O4.

19th century

The discoveries of Michael Faraday formed the foundation of electric motor technology Faraday Cochran Pickersgill.jpg
The discoveries of Michael Faraday formed the foundation of electric motor technology

In the 19th century, research into the subject started to intensify. Notable developments in this century include the work of Hans Christian Ørsted who discovered in 1820 that an electric current produces a magnetic field that will deflect a compass needle, of William Sturgeon who, in 1825 invented the electromagnet, of Joseph Henry and Edward Davy who invented the electrical relay in 1835, of Georg Ohm, who in 1827 quantified the relationship between the electric current and potential difference in a conductor, [3] of Michael Faraday (the discoverer of electromagnetic induction in 1831), and of James Clerk Maxwell, who in 1873 published a unified theory of electricity and magnetism in his treatise Electricity and Magnetism. [4]

Hans Christian Ørsted Danish physicist and chemist (1777–1851)

Hans Christian Ørsted was a Danish physicist and chemist who discovered that electric currents create magnetic fields, which was the first connection found between electricity and magnetism. Oersted's law and the oersted (Oe) are named after him.

William Sturgeon British inventor

William Sturgeon was an English physicist and inventor who made the first electromagnets, and invented the first practical English electric motor.

Joseph Henry American scientist

Joseph Henry was an American scientist who served as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He was the secretary for the National Institute for the Promotion of Science, a precursor of the Smithsonian Institution. He was highly regarded during his lifetime. While building electromagnets, Henry discovered the electromagnetic phenomenon of self-inductance. He also discovered mutual inductance independently of Michael Faraday, though Faraday was the first to make the discovery and publish his results. Henry developed the electromagnet into a practical device. He invented a precursor to the electric doorbell and electric relay (1835). The SI unit of inductance, the Henry, is named in his honor. Henry's work on the electromagnetic relay was the basis of the practical electrical telegraph, invented by Samuel F. B. Morse and Sir Charles Wheatstone, separately.

In 1782 Georges-Louis Le Sage developed and presented in Berlin probably the world's first form of electric telegraphy, using 24 different wires, one for each letter of the alphabet. This telegraph connected two rooms. It was an electrostatic telegraph that moved gold leafs through electrical conduction.

In 1795, Francisco Salva Campillo proposed an electrostatic telegraph system. Between 1803-1804, he worked on electrical telegraphy and in 1804, he presented his report at the Royal Academy of Natural Sciences and Arts of Barcelona. Salva's electrolyte telegraph system was very innovative though it was greatly influenced by and based upon two new discoveries made in Europe in 1800 – Alessandro Volta's electric battery for generating an electric current and William Nicholson and Anthony Carlyle's electrolysis of water. [5] Electrical telegraphy may be considered the first example of electrical engineering. Electrical engineering became a profession in the later 19th century. Practitioners had created a global electric telegraph network and the first professional electrical engineering institutions were founded in the UK and USA to support the new discipline. Francis Ronalds created an electric telegraph system in 1816 and documented his vision of how the world could be transformed by electricity. [6] [7] Over 50 years later, he joined the new Society of Telegraph Engineers (soon to be renamed the Institution of Electrical Engineers) where he was regarded by other members as the first of their cohort. [8] By the end of the 19th century, the world had been forever changed by the rapid communication made possible by the engineering development of land-lines, submarine cables, and, from about 1890, wireless telegraphy.

Practical applications and advances in such fields created an increasing need for standardised units of measure. They led to the international standardization of the units volt, ampere, coulomb, ohm, farad, and henry. This was achieved at an international conference in Chicago in 1893. [9] The publication of these standards formed the basis of future advances in standardisation in various industries, and in many countries, the definitions were immediately recognized in relevant legislation. [10]

During these years, the study of electricity was largely considered to be a subfield of physics since the early electrical technology was considered electromechanical in nature. The Technische Universität Darmstadt founded the world's first department of electrical engineering in 1882. The first electrical engineering degree program was started at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the physics department under Professor Charles Cross, [11] though it was Cornell University to produce the world's first electrical engineering graduates in 1885. [12] The first course in electrical engineering was taught in 1883 in Cornell's Sibley College of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanic Arts. [13] It was not until about 1885 that Cornell President Andrew Dickson White established the first Department of Electrical Engineering in the United States. [14] In the same year, University College London founded the first chair of electrical engineering in Great Britain. [15] Professor Mendell P. Weinbach at University of Missouri soon followed suit by establishing the electrical engineering department in 1886. [16] Afterwards, universities and institutes of technology gradually started to offer electrical engineering programs to their students all over the world.

During these decades use of electrical engineering increased dramatically. In 1882, Thomas Edison switched on the world's first large-scale electric power network that provided 110 volts — direct current (DC) — to 59 customers on Manhattan Island in New York City. In 1884, Sir Charles Parsons invented the steam turbine allowing for more efficient electric power generation. Alternating current, with its ability to transmit power more efficiently over long distances via the use of transformers, developed rapidly in the 1880s and 1890s with transformer designs by Károly Zipernowsky, Ottó Bláthy and Miksa Déri (later called ZBD transformers), Lucien Gaulard, John Dixon Gibbs and William Stanley, Jr.. Practical AC motor designs including induction motors were independently invented by Galileo Ferraris and Nikola Tesla and further developed into a practical three-phase form by Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovolsky and Charles Eugene Lancelot Brown. [17] Charles Steinmetz and Oliver Heaviside contributed to the theoretical basis of alternating current engineering. [18] [19] The spread in the use of AC set off in the United States what has been called the War of Currents between a George Westinghouse backed AC system and a Thomas Edison backed DC power system, with AC being adopted as the overall standard. [20]

Modern developments

Guglielmo Marconi known for his pioneering work on long distance radio transmission Guglielmo Marconi.jpg
Guglielmo Marconi known for his pioneering work on long distance radio transmission

During the development of radio, many scientists and inventors contributed to radio technology and electronics. The mathematical work of James Clerk Maxwell during the 1850s had shown the relationship of different forms of electromagnetic radiation including possibility of invisible airborne waves (later called "radio waves"). In his classic physics experiments of 1888, Heinrich Hertz proved Maxwell's theory by transmitting radio waves with a spark-gap transmitter, and detected them by using simple electrical devices. Other physicists experimented with these new waves and in the process developed devices for transmitting and detecting them. In 1895, Guglielmo Marconi began work on a way to adapt the known methods of transmitting and detecting these "Hertzian waves" into a purpose built commercial wireless telegraphic system. Early on, he sent wireless signals over a distance of one and a half miles. In December 1901, he sent wireless waves that were not affected by the curvature of the Earth. Marconi later transmitted the wireless signals across the Atlantic between Poldhu, Cornwall, and St. John's, Newfoundland, a distance of 2,100 miles (3,400 km). [21]

In 1897, Karl Ferdinand Braun introduced the cathode ray tube as part of an oscilloscope, a crucial enabling technology for electronic television. [22] John Fleming invented the first radio tube, the diode, in 1904. Two years later, Robert von Lieben and Lee De Forest independently developed the amplifier tube, called the triode. [23]

In 1920, Albert Hull developed the magnetron which would eventually lead to the development of the microwave oven in 1946 by Percy Spencer. [24] [25] In 1934, the British military began to make strides toward radar (which also uses the magnetron) under the direction of Dr Wimperis, culminating in the operation of the first radar station at Bawdsey in August 1936. [26]

In 1941, Konrad Zuse presented the Z3, the world's first fully functional and programmable computer using electromechanical parts. In 1943, Tommy Flowers designed and built the Colossus, the world's first fully functional, electronic, digital and programmable computer. [27] In 1946, the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) of John Presper Eckert and John Mauchly followed, beginning the computing era. The arithmetic performance of these machines allowed engineers to develop completely new technologies and achieve new objectives, including the Apollo program which culminated in landing astronauts on the Moon. [28]

Solid-state electronics

A replica of the first working transistor. Replica-of-first-transistor.jpg
A replica of the first working transistor.

The invention of the transistor in late 1947 by William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain of the Bell Telephone Laboratories opened the door for more compact devices and led to the development of the integrated circuit in 1958 by Jack Kilby and independently in 1959 by Robert Noyce. [29]

The microprocessor was introduced with the Intel 4004. It began with the "Busicom Project" [30] as Masatoshi Shima's three-chip CPU design in 1968, [31] [30] before Sharp's Tadashi Sasaki conceived of a single-chip CPU design, which he discussed with Busicom and Intel in 1968. [32] The Intel 4004 was then developed as a single-chip microprocessor from 1969 to 1970, led by Intel's Marcian Hoff and Federico Faggin and Busicom's Masatoshi Shima. [30] The microprocessor led to the development of microcomputers and personal computers, and the microcomputer revolution.

Subfields

Electrical engineering has many subdisciplines, the most common of which are listed below. Although there are electrical engineers who focus exclusively on one of these subdisciplines, many deal with a combination of them. Sometimes certain fields, such as electronic engineering and computer engineering, are considered separate disciplines in their own right.

Power

Power pole Power pole.jpg
Power pole

Power engineering deals with the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity as well as the design of a range of related devices. [33] These include transformers, electric generators, electric motors, high voltage engineering, and power electronics. In many regions of the world, governments maintain an electrical network called a power grid that connects a variety of generators together with users of their energy. Users purchase electrical energy from the grid, avoiding the costly exercise of having to generate their own. Power engineers may work on the design and maintenance of the power grid as well as the power systems that connect to it. [34] Such systems are called on-grid power systems and may supply the grid with additional power, draw power from the grid, or do both. Power engineers may also work on systems that do not connect to the grid, called off-grid power systems, which in some cases are preferable to on-grid systems. The future includes Satellite controlled power systems, with feedback in real time to prevent power surges and prevent blackouts.

Control

Control systems play a critical role in spaceflight. Space Shuttle Columbia launching.jpg
Control systems play a critical role in spaceflight.

Control engineering focuses on the modeling of a diverse range of dynamic systems and the design of controllers that will cause these systems to behave in the desired manner. [35] To implement such controllers, electrical engineers may use electronic circuits, digital signal processors, microcontrollers, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Control engineering has a wide range of applications from the flight and propulsion systems of commercial airliners to the cruise control present in many modern automobiles. [36] It also plays an important role in industrial automation.

Control engineers often utilize feedback when designing control systems. For example, in an automobile with cruise control the vehicle's speed is continuously monitored and fed back to the system which adjusts the motor's power output accordingly. Where there is regular feedback, control theory can be used to determine how the system responds to such feedback. [37]

Electronics

Electronic components Componentes.JPG
Electronic components

Electronic engineering involves the design and testing of electronic circuits that use the properties of components such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, and transistors to achieve a particular functionality. [34] The tuned circuit, which allows the user of a radio to filter out all but a single station, is just one example of such a circuit. Another example to research is a pneumatic signal conditioner.

Prior to the Second World War, the subject was commonly known as radio engineering and basically was restricted to aspects of communications and radar, commercial radio, and early television. [34] Later, in post war years, as consumer devices began to be developed, the field grew to include modern television, audio systems, computers, and microprocessors. In the mid-to-late 1950s, the term radio engineering gradually gave way to the name electronic engineering.

Before the invention of the integrated circuit in 1959, [38] electronic circuits were constructed from discrete components that could be manipulated by humans. These discrete circuits consumed much space and power and were limited in speed, although they are still common in some applications. By contrast, integrated circuits packed a large number—often millions—of tiny electrical components, mainly transistors, [39] into a small chip around the size of a coin. This allowed for the powerful computers and other electronic devices we see today.

Microelectronics and nanoelectronics

Microprocessor 80486dx2-large.jpg
Microprocessor

Microelectronics engineering deals with the design and microfabrication of very small electronic circuit components for use in an integrated circuit or sometimes for use on their own as a general electronic component. [40] The most common microelectronic components are semiconductor transistors, although all main electronic components (resistors, capacitors etc.) can be created at a microscopic level.

Nanoelectronics is the further scaling of devices down to nanometer levels. Modern devices are already in the nanometer regime, with below 100 nm processing having been standard since around 2002. [41]

Microelectronic components are created by chemically fabricating wafers of semiconductors such as silicon (at higher frequencies, compound semiconductors like gallium arsenide and indium phosphide) to obtain the desired transport of electronic charge and control of current. The field of microelectronics involves a significant amount of chemistry and material science and requires the electronic engineer working in the field to have a very good working knowledge of the effects of quantum mechanics. [42]

Signal processing

A Bayer filter on a CCD requires signal processing to get a red, green, and blue value at each pixel. Bayer pattern on sensor.svg
A Bayer filter on a CCD requires signal processing to get a red, green, and blue value at each pixel.

Signal processing deals with the analysis and manipulation of signals. [43] Signals can be either analog, in which case the signal varies continuously according to the information, or digital, in which case the signal varies according to a series of discrete values representing the information. For analog signals, signal processing may involve the amplification and filtering of audio signals for audio equipment or the modulation and demodulation of signals for telecommunications. For digital signals, signal processing may involve the compression, error detection and error correction of digitally sampled signals. [44]

Signal Processing is a very mathematically oriented and intensive area forming the core of digital signal processing and it is rapidly expanding with new applications in every field of electrical engineering such as communications, control, radar, audio engineering, broadcast engineering, power electronics, and biomedical engineering as many already existing analog systems are replaced with their digital counterparts. Analog signal processing is still important in the design of many control systems.

DSP processor ICs are found in many types of modern electronic devices, such as digital television sets, [45] radios, Hi-Fi audio equipment, mobile phones, multimedia players, camcorders and digital cameras, automobile control systems, noise cancelling headphones, digital spectrum analyzers, missile guidance systems, radar systems, and telematics systems. In such products, DSP may be responsible for noise reduction, speech recognition or synthesis, encoding or decoding digital media, wirelessly transmitting or receiving data, triangulating position using GPS, and other kinds of image processing, video processing, audio processing, and speech processing. [46]

Telecommunications

Satellite dishes are a crucial component in the analysis of satellite information. Erdfunkstelle Raisting 2a.jpg
Satellite dishes are a crucial component in the analysis of satellite information.

Telecommunications engineering focuses on the transmission of information across a communication channel such as a coax cable, optical fiber or free space. [47] Transmissions across free space require information to be encoded in a carrier signal to shift the information to a carrier frequency suitable for transmission; this is known as modulation. Popular analog modulation techniques include amplitude modulation and frequency modulation. [48] The choice of modulation affects the cost and performance of a system and these two factors must be balanced carefully by the engineer.

Once the transmission characteristics of a system are determined, telecommunication engineers design the transmitters and receivers needed for such systems. These two are sometimes combined to form a two-way communication device known as a transceiver. A key consideration in the design of transmitters is their power consumption as this is closely related to their signal strength. [49] [50] Typically, if the power of the transmitted signal is insufficient once the signal arrives at the receiver's antenna(s), the information contained in the signal will be corrupted by noise.

Instrumentation

Flight instruments provide pilots with the tools to control aircraft analytically. F-18E cockpit m02006112600499.jpg
Flight instruments provide pilots with the tools to control aircraft analytically.

Instrumentation engineering deals with the design of devices to measure physical quantities such as pressure, flow, and temperature. [51] The design of such instruments requires a good understanding of physics that often extends beyond electromagnetic theory. For example, flight instruments measure variables such as wind speed and altitude to enable pilots the control of aircraft analytically. Similarly, thermocouples use the Peltier-Seebeck effect to measure the temperature difference between two points. [52]

Often instrumentation is not used by itself, but instead as the sensors of larger electrical systems. For example, a thermocouple might be used to help ensure a furnace's temperature remains constant. [53] For this reason, instrumentation engineering is often viewed as the counterpart of control.

Computers

Supercomputers are used in fields as diverse as computational biology and geographic information systems. MEGWARE.CLIC.jpg
Supercomputers are used in fields as diverse as computational biology and geographic information systems.

Computer engineering deals with the design of computers and computer systems. This may involve the design of new hardware, the design of PDAs, tablets, and supercomputers, or the use of computers to control an industrial plant. [54] Computer engineers may also work on a system's software. However, the design of complex software systems is often the domain of software engineering, which is usually considered a separate discipline. [55] Desktop computers represent a tiny fraction of the devices a computer engineer might work on, as computer-like architectures are now found in a range of devices including video game consoles and DVD players.

The Bird VIP Infant ventilator VIP Bird2.jpg
The Bird VIP Infant ventilator

Mechatronics is an engineering discipline which deals with the convergence of electrical and mechanical systems. Such combined systems are known as electromechanical systems and have widespread adoption. Examples include automated manufacturing systems, [56] heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, [57] and various subsystems of aircraft and automobiles. [58] Electronic systems design is the subject within electrical engineering that deals with the multi-disciplinary design issues of complex electrical and mechanical systems. [59]

The term mechatronics is typically used to refer to macroscopic systems but futurists have predicted the emergence of very small electromechanical devices. Already, such small devices, known as Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), are used in automobiles to tell airbags when to deploy, [60] in digital projectors to create sharper images, and in inkjet printers to create nozzles for high definition printing. In the future it is hoped the devices will help build tiny implantable medical devices and improve optical communication. [61]

Biomedical engineering is another related discipline, concerned with the design of medical equipment. This includes fixed equipment such as ventilators, MRI scanners, [62] and electrocardiograph monitors as well as mobile equipment such as cochlear implants, artificial pacemakers, and artificial hearts.

Aerospace engineering and robotics an example is the most recent electric propulsion and ion propulsion.

Education

Oscilloscope Osciloscopio locomotora.jpg
Oscilloscope

Electrical engineers typically possess an academic degree with a major in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, electrical engineering technology, [63] or electrical and electronic engineering. [64] [65] The same fundamental principles are taught in all programs, though emphasis may vary according to title. The length of study for such a degree is usually four or five years and the completed degree may be designated as a Bachelor of Science in Electrical/Electronics Engineering Technology, Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Technology, or Bachelor of Applied Science depending on the university. The bachelor's degree generally includes units covering physics, mathematics, computer science, project management, and a variety of topics in electrical engineering. [66] Initially such topics cover most, if not all, of the subdisciplines of electrical engineering. At some schools, the students can then choose to emphasize one or more subdisciplines towards the end of their courses of study.

An example circuit diagram, which is useful in circuit design and troubleshooting. LM317 typical schematic.svg
An example circuit diagram, which is useful in circuit design and troubleshooting.

At many schools, electronic engineering is included as part of an electrical award, sometimes explicitly, such as a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical and Electronic), but in others electrical and electronic engineering are both considered to be sufficiently broad and complex that separate degrees are offered. [67]

Some electrical engineers choose to study for a postgraduate degree such as a Master of Engineering/Master of Science (M.Eng./M.Sc.), a Master of Engineering Management, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Engineering, an Engineering Doctorate (Eng.D.), or an Engineer's degree. The master's and engineer's degrees may consist of either research, coursework or a mixture of the two. The Doctor of Philosophy and Engineering Doctorate degrees consist of a significant research component and are often viewed as the entry point to academia. In the United Kingdom and some other European countries, Master of Engineering is often considered to be an undergraduate degree of slightly longer duration than the Bachelor of Engineering rather than postgraduate. [68]

Professional practice

Belgian electrical engineers inspecting the rotor of a 40,000 kilowatt turbine of the General Electric Company in New York City Belgium. Belgian electrical engineers Georges Jean L. Van Antro, left, Georges H. Marchal, center, and Jacques de... - NARA - 541661.tif
Belgian electrical engineers inspecting the rotor of a 40,000 kilowatt turbine of the General Electric Company in New York City

In most countries, a bachelor's degree in engineering represents the first step towards professional certification and the degree program itself is certified by a professional body. [69] After completing a certified degree program the engineer must satisfy a range of requirements (including work experience requirements) before being certified. Once certified the engineer is designated the title of Professional Engineer (in the United States, Canada and South Africa), Chartered Engineer or Incorporated Engineer (in India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Zimbabwe), Chartered Professional Engineer (in Australia and New Zealand) or European Engineer (in much of the European Union).

The IEEE corporate office is on the 17th floor of 3 Park Avenue in New York City 3 Park Avenue.JPG
The IEEE corporate office is on the 17th floor of 3 Park Avenue in New York City

The advantages of licensure vary depending upon location. For example, in the United States and Canada "only a licensed engineer may seal engineering work for public and private clients". [70] This requirement is enforced by state and provincial legislation such as Quebec's Engineers Act. [71] In other countries, no such legislation exists. Practically all certifying bodies maintain a code of ethics that they expect all members to abide by or risk expulsion. [72] In this way these organizations play an important role in maintaining ethical standards for the profession. Even in jurisdictions where certification has little or no legal bearing on work, engineers are subject to contract law. In cases where an engineer's work fails he or she may be subject to the tort of negligence and, in extreme cases, the charge of criminal negligence. An engineer's work must also comply with numerous other rules and regulations, such as building codes and legislation pertaining to environmental law.

Professional bodies of note for electrical engineers include the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). The IEEE claims to produce 30% of the world's literature in electrical engineering, has over 360,000 members worldwide and holds over 3,000 conferences annually. [73] The IET publishes 21 journals, has a worldwide membership of over 150,000, and claims to be the largest professional engineering society in Europe. [74] [75] Obsolescence of technical skills is a serious concern for electrical engineers. Membership and participation in technical societies, regular reviews of periodicals in the field and a habit of continued learning are therefore essential to maintaining proficiency. An MIET(Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology) is recognised in Europe as an Electrical and computer (technology) engineer. [76]

In Australia, Canada, and the United States electrical engineers make up around 0.25% of the labor force. [lower-alpha 1]

Tools and work

From the Global Positioning System to electric power generation, electrical engineers have contributed to the development of a wide range of technologies. They design, develop, test, and supervise the deployment of electrical systems and electronic devices. For example, they may work on the design of telecommunication systems, the operation of electric power stations, the lighting and wiring of buildings, the design of household appliances, or the electrical control of industrial machinery. [80]

Satellite communications is typical of what electrical engineers work on. Molnya-1 Musee du Bourget P1010442.jpg
Satellite communications is typical of what electrical engineers work on.

Fundamental to the discipline are the sciences of physics and mathematics as these help to obtain both a qualitative and quantitative description of how such systems will work. Today most engineering work involves the use of computers and it is commonplace to use computer-aided design programs when designing electrical systems. Nevertheless, the ability to sketch ideas is still invaluable for quickly communicating with others.

The Shadow robot hand system Shadow Hand Bulb large.jpg
The Shadow robot hand system

Although most electrical engineers will understand basic circuit theory (that is the interactions of elements such as resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors, and inductors in a circuit), the theories employed by engineers generally depend upon the work they do. For example, quantum mechanics and solid state physics might be relevant to an engineer working on VLSI (the design of integrated circuits), but are largely irrelevant to engineers working with macroscopic electrical systems. Even circuit theory may not be relevant to a person designing telecommunication systems that use off-the-shelf components. Perhaps the most important technical skills for electrical engineers are reflected in university programs, which emphasize strong numerical skills, computer literacy, and the ability to understand the technical language and concepts that relate to electrical engineering. [81]

A laser bouncing down an acrylic rod, illustrating the total internal reflection of light in a multi-mode optical fiber. Laser in fibre.jpg
A laser bouncing down an acrylic rod, illustrating the total internal reflection of light in a multi-mode optical fiber.

A wide range of instrumentation is used by electrical engineers. For simple control circuits and alarms, a basic multimeter measuring voltage, current, and resistance may suffice. Where time-varying signals need to be studied, the oscilloscope is also an ubiquitous instrument. In RF engineering and high frequency telecommunications, spectrum analyzers and network analyzers are used. In some disciplines, safety can be a particular concern with instrumentation. For instance, medical electronics designers must take into account that much lower voltages than normal can be dangerous when electrodes are directly in contact with internal body fluids. [82] Power transmission engineering also has great safety concerns due to the high voltages used; although voltmeters may in principle be similar to their low voltage equivalents, safety and calibration issues make them very different. [83] Many disciplines of electrical engineering use tests specific to their discipline. Audio electronics engineers use audio test sets consisting of a signal generator and a meter, principally to measure level but also other parameters such as harmonic distortion and noise. Likewise, information technology have their own test sets, often specific to a particular data format, and the same is true of television broadcasting.

Radome at the Misawa Air Base Misawa Security Operations Center, Misawa, Japan Navy-Radome.jpg
Radome at the Misawa Air Base Misawa Security Operations Center, Misawa, Japan

For many engineers, technical work accounts for only a fraction of the work they do. A lot of time may also be spent on tasks such as discussing proposals with clients, preparing budgets and determining project schedules. [84] Many senior engineers manage a team of technicians or other engineers and for this reason project management skills are important. Most engineering projects involve some form of documentation and strong written communication skills are therefore very important.

The workplaces of engineers are just as varied as the types of work they do. Electrical engineers may be found in the pristine lab environment of a fabrication plant, on board a Naval ship, the offices of a consulting firm or on site at a mine. During their working life, electrical engineers may find themselves supervising a wide range of individuals including scientists, electricians, computer programmers, and other engineers. [85]

Electrical engineering has an intimate relationship with the physical sciences. For instance, the physicist Lord Kelvin played a major role in the engineering of the first transatlantic telegraph cable. [86] Conversely, the engineer Oliver Heaviside produced major work on the mathematics of transmission on telegraph cables. [87] Electrical engineers are often required on major science projects. For instance, large particle accelerators such as CERN need electrical engineers to deal with many aspects of the project: from the power distribution, to the instrumentation, to the manufacture and installation of the superconducting electromagnets. [88] [89]

See also

Notes

  1. In May 2014 there were around 175,000 people working as electrical engineers in the US. [77] In 2012, Australia had around 19,000 [78] while in Canada, there were around 37,000 (as of 2007), constituting about 0.2 % of the labour force in each of the three countries. Australia and Canada reported that 96 % and 88 % of their electrical engineers respectively are male. [79]

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Further reading