“Electrical science has revealed to us the true nature of light has provided us with innumerable appliances and instruments of precision, and has thereby vastly added to the exactness of our knowledge.”
With time, Electrical engineers have brought about some of the most important innovations of the modern world. You probably have always wondered about this branch of engineering and might even have decided to pursue it sometime in future. Let’s begin by understanding what Electrical Engineering actually is.
Electrical engineering is the professional branch of engineering that includes the study and application of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. With the commercialization and advent of the electric telegraph and electrical power supply, Electrical Engineering has gained more recognition in the late nineteenth century. It covers a vast range of sub-disciplines such as power systems, power electronics, optoelectronics, digital electronics, analog electronics, control systems, signal processing, and telecommunications.
In recent times, there have been revolutionary innovations in energy efficiency, mobile technology, accessibility, transportation, and telecommunication – all made possible by the dedicated electrical engineers.
For some of the most exciting innovations in Electrical Engineering, read below:
1. High-Efficiency Photovoltaic Cells
Efficiency in energy is the key to all modern innovations. The challenge here was to make use of a photovoltaic technology that would be efficient, sustainable to different operating conditions and highly resistant to any form of damage. All this had to be cost-effective as well. A variety of engineering approaches have been working to achieve this for quite a while now. Recently, perovskite-based cells have managed to come quite close to the desired results and has gained the attention of major research facilities.
2. Green Energy Electrical Power Converter
The next step to collecting energy is converting it for effective use in the electrical system. The Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Arkansas has developed a power converter that makes it easier for people who use renewable sources of energy to cut excess energy into the power grid. This innovative technology has the potential to make harvesting solar energy at home much easier and lead to households opting for renewable and energy efficient technologies.
3. Smart Electrical Grids
Smart grids essentially make use of electrical technology at multiple levels to make the flow control better, spot malfunctions in the system and automate service delivery. With energy systems becoming more complex with each passing day, smart grids are the answer for the diverse energy sources. Smart grids provide end-to-end communication between power plants, distribution sites, and the end consumer’s electrical point-of-presence. Smart grids are making it possible to increase energy efficiency and reduce costs.
4. Virtual Reality
This is one innovation that involves varied fields of science and engineering. However, Electrical Engineering is crucial for this in terms of providing a virtual or sensory experience to the user that translates into “real life” seamlessly. Virtual reality has come a long way from stationary outputs to become more interactive now with positional tracking. However, there is still a long way to go to develop solutions with a wider range of sensors.
5. Eye Tracking Technology
Over the years, eye tracking technology has grown into a very important focal point in accessibility for the disabled – allowing technology access through eye movement. A bunch of sensitive electronic sensors is the basis and foundation of all eye tracking. Eye tracking has emerged a lot from its initial days and is another big example of the innovation in the field of Electrical Engineering.
6. Wireless Wearable Tech
Does the idea of a “Personal Area Network” excite you? Well, the concept has been around in computing science for quite a while. However, it was only recently that it became a personal reality. With the advent of this technology, it is now possible for devices to seamlessly merge with the wider environment by operating on a smaller scale. Wearable devices can now authenticate access to your cars and give accurate data while you exercise without your phone being a middleman!
Let’s talk about the characteristics of Graphene first – it is the strongest known material on earth. It can stretch by 20%, thus being as pliable as rubber. It was made to elongate battery life for portable devices and collect biometric information for wearable devices.
Now, what is graphene? It is a single layer of carbon atoms, one million times thinner than paper. It is so thin that it can actually be considered as two-dimensional. It is also the future of electrical engineering!
8. Ion Thruster Energy
Have you heard of Star Trek? Of course, you have! It was a force to be reckoned with. For thousands of people around the world, it inspired a vision to pursue engineering. It presented engineers with a challenge - What kind of novel propulsion technology would be needed for space crafts to be propelled into the outer space?
NASA and other similar organizations have been working effectively on the prototype ion engine for years, looking at a way to carry large amounts of supplies and equipment through space. It uses solar power as a charging mechanism and expels xenon gas. It follows a mechanism where electrons from the solar panel are trapped in a magnetic field and then used to ionize the xenon propellant for a total thrust of 13kW.
9. Personal Flying Cars
You might be an engineer or not, you must surely have thought about flying cars more than once in your life. A private U.S. firm called Terrafugia has actually come up with a personal flying craft with the control and safety of regular use. The flagship product is called The Transition and it has effectively overcome every possible engineering challenges. With advanced carbon fiber construction, this innovation combines the best of automotive technology and aeronautics. A number of electrical engineering innovations have been used to develop it– an engine that successfully powers both the rear wheels and the propeller using unleaded gasoline.
10. 40GB Wi-Fi
Can you imagine the world without internet? Not really! Back in 2013, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany upped the speed limit for Wi-Fi by delivering 40 gigabytes of data per second over a distance of more than half a mile. Their secret was a new set of chips with the power of processing signals at frequencies higher than the ones normally used. This is led by the theory that shorter the wavelength, the more powerful Wi-Fi is.
With the advent of technology comes the question of energy. Our natural resources are depleting and yet we are always on a lookout for more innovative and renewable sources of energy. If we consider the fact that 260 billion barrels (one barrel = 159 liters) of petroleum oil were extracted in the last 11 years, it's quite clear that the world's petroleum resources will deplete one day – not very far away. Thus, alternative sources of energy are the only option. Innovations in solar or wind energy are aimed to do just that – provide us with energy that will enable us to maintain our current standard of living. Our technological innovations are also designed in a way that they consume lesser energy than before.