Home     Definition    History    Examples    Medicine    Agriculture    Industrial    Environmental     Regulation     Learning        

Electrical engineering


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

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 sophisticated design and manufacturing software.

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 leaf through electrical conduction.

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. 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.

The surface passivation process, which electrically stabilized silicon surfaces via thermal oxidation, was developed by Mohamed M. Atalla at BTL in 1957. This led to the development of the monolithic integrated circuit chip. The first integrated circuits were the hybrid integrated circuit invented by Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments in 1958 and the monolithic integrated circuit chip invented by Robert Noyce at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1959.

The development of MOS integrated circuit technology in the 1960s led to the invention of the microprocessor in the early 1970s. The first single-chip microprocessor was the Intel 4004, released in 1971. It began with the "Busicom Project" as Masatoshi Shima's three-chip CPU design in 1968, before Sharp's Tadashi Sasaki conceived of a single-chip CPU design, which he discussed with Busicom and Intel in 1968. The Intel 4004 was then designed and realized by Federico Faggin at Intel with his silicon-gate MOS technology, along with Intel's Marcian Hoff and Stanley Mazor and Busicom's Masatoshi Shima. The microprocessor led to the development of microcomputers and personal computers, and the microcomputer revolution.

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. 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. It also plays an important role in industrial automation.

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. 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.

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.