Saturday, September 24, 2011

History of electrical engineering

Michael Faraday 
Electricity has been a subject of scientific interest since at least the early 17th century. The first electrical engineer was probably William Gilbert who designed the versorium: a device that detected the presence of statically charged objects. He was also the first to draw a clear distinction between magnetism and static electricity and is credited with establishing the term electricity. In 1775 Alessandro Volta's scientific experimentations devised the electrophorus, a device that produced a static electric charge, and by 1800 Volta developed the voltaic pile, a forerunner of the electric battery.
However, it was not until the 19th century that research into the subject started to intensify. Notable developments in this century include the work of Georg Ohm, who in 1827 quantified the relationship between the electric current and potential difference in a conductor, Michael Faraday, the discoverer of electromagnetic induction in 1831, and James Clerk Maxwell, who in 1873 published a unified theory of electricity and magnetism in his treatise Electricity and Magnetism.
Thomas Edison

During these years, the study of electricity was largely considered to be a subfield of physics. It was not until the late 19th century that universities started to offer degrees in electrical engineering. The Darmstadt University of Technology founded the first chair and the first faculty of electrical engineering worldwide in 1882. In the same year, under Professor Charles Cross, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology began offering the first option of Electrical Engineering within a physics department. In 1883 Darmstadt University of Technology and Cornell University introduced the world's first courses of study in electrical engineering, and in 1885 the University College London founded the first chair of electrical engineering in the United Kingdom. The University of Missouri subsequently established the first department of electrical engineering in the United States in 1886.

Nikola Tesla
During this period, the work concerning electrical engineering increased dramatically. In 1882, Edison switched on the world's first large-scale electrical supply network that provided 110 volts direct current to fifty-nine customers in lower Manhattan. In 1884 Sir Charles Parsons invented the steam turbine which today generates about 80 percent of the electric power in the world using a variety of heat sources. In 1887, Nikola Tesla filed a number of patents related to a competing form of power distribution known as alternating current. In the following years a bitter rivalry between Tesla and Edison, known as the "War of Currents", took place over the preferred method of distribution. AC eventually replaced DC for generation and power distribution, enormously extending the range and improving the safety and efficiency of power distribution.

The efforts of the two did much to further electrical engineering—Tesla's work on induction motors and polyphase systems influenced the field for years to come, while Edison's work on telegraphy and his development of the stock ticker proved lucrative for his company, which ultimately became General Electric. However, by the end of the 19th century, other key figures in the progress of electrical engineering were beginning to emerge.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Electrical engineering

...and electronic circuits.
Electrical engineers design complex power systems...

Electrical engineering is a field of engineering that generally deals with the study and application of electricity, electronics and electromagnetism. The field first became an identifiable occupation in the late nineteenth century after commercialization of the electric telegraph and electrical power supply. It now covers a range of subtopics including power, electronics, control systems, signal processing and telecommunications.
Electrical engineering may include electronic engineering. Where a distinction is made, usually outside of the United States, electrical engineering is considered to deal with the problems associated with large-scale electrical systems such as power transmission and motor control, whereas electronic engineering deals with the study of small-scale electronic systems including computers and integrated circuits.[1] Alternatively, electrical engineers are usually concerned with using electricity to transmit energy, while electronic engineers are concerned with using electricity to process information. More recently, the distinction has become blurred by the growth of power electronics.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sub-disciplines of civil engineering (3)

US Navy Surveyor at work with a leveling instrument.
Surveying is the process by which a surveyor measures certain dimensions that generally occur on the surface of the Earth. Surveying equipment, such as levels and theodolites, are used for accurate measurement of angular deviation, horizontal, vertical and slope distances. With computerisation, electronic distance measurement (EDM), total stations, GPS surveying and laser scanning have supplemented (and to a large extent supplanted) the traditional optical instruments. This information is crucial to convert the data into a graphical representation of the Earth's surface, in the form of a map. This information is then used by civil engineers, contractors and even realtors to design from, build on, and trade, respectively. Elements of a building or structure must be correctly sized and positioned in relation to each other and to site boundaries and adjacent structures. Although surveying is a distinct profession with separate qualifications and licensing arrangements, civil engineers are trained in the basics of surveying and mapping, as well as geographic information systems. Surveyors may also lay out the routes of railways, tramway tracks, highways, roads, pipelines and streets as well as position other infrastructures, such as harbors, before construction.

Structural engineering

Suspension bridge between two brick built towers, over a wooded gorge, showing mud and water at the bottom. In the distance are hills.
Clifton Suspension Bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Structural engineering is concerned with the structural design and structural analysis of buildings, bridges, towers, flyovers, tunnels, off shore structures like oil and gas fields in the sea, and other structures. This involves identifying the loads which act upon a structure and the forces and stresses which arise within that structure due to those loads, and then designing the structure to successfully support and resist those loads. The loads can be self weight of the structures, other dead load, live loads, moving (wheel) load, wind load, earthquake load, load from temperature change etc. The structural engineer must design structures to be safe for their users and to successfully fulfill the function they are designed for (to be serviceable). Due to the nature of some loading conditions, sub-disciplines within structural engineering have emerged, including wind engineering and earthquake engineering.
Design considerations will include strength, stiffness, and stability of the structure when subjected to loads which may be static, such as furniture or self-weight, or dynamic, such as wind, seismic, crowd or vehicle loads, or transitory, such as temporary construction loads or impact. Other considerations include cost, constructability, safety, aesthetics and sustainability.

Sub-disciplines of civil engineering (2)

Water resources engineering

Hoover dam
Water resources engineering is concerned with the collection and management of water (as a natural resource). As a discipline it therefore combines hydrology, environmental science, meteorology, geology, conservation, and resource management. This area of civil engineering relates to the prediction and management of both the quality and the quantity of water in both underground (aquifers) and above ground (lakes, rivers, and streams) resources. Water resource engineers analyze and model very small to very large areas of the earth to predict the amount and content of water as it flows into, through, or out of a facility. Although the actual design of the facility may be left to other engineers. Hydraulic engineering is concerned with the flow and conveyance of fluids, principally water. This area of civil engineering is intimately related to the design of pipelines, water supply network, drainage facilities (including bridges, dams, channels, culverts, levees, storm sewers), and canals. Hydraulic engineers design these facilities using the concepts of fluid pressure, fluid statics, fluid dynamics, and hydraulics, among others.

Materials engineering

Another aspect of Civil engineering is materials science. Material engineering deals with ceramics such as concrete, mix asphalt concrete, metals Focus around increased strength, metals such as aluminum and steel, and polymers such as polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and carbon fibers.
Materials engineering also consists of protection and prevention like paints and finishes. Alloying is another aspect of material engineering, combining two different types of metals to produce a stronger metal.

Land Surveying In the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and most Commonwealth countries land surveying is considered to be a distinct profession. Land surveyors are not considered to be engineers, and have their own professional associations and licencing requirements. The services of a licenced land surveyor are generally required for boundary surveys (to establish the boundaries of a parcel using its legal description) and subdivision plans (a plot or map based on a survey of a parcel of land, with boundary lines drawn inside the larger parcel to
indicated the creation of new boundary lines and roads), both of which are generally referred to as cadastral surveying.

Construction Surveying
Construction surveying is generally performed by specialised technicians. Unlike land surveyors, the resulting plan does not have legal status. Construction surveyors perform the following tasks:
  • Survey existing conditions of the future work site, including topography, existing buildings and infrastructure, and even including underground infrastructure whenever possible;
  • Construction surveying (otherwise "lay-out" or "setting-out"): to stake out reference points and markers that will guide the construction of new structures such as roads or buildings for subsequent construction;
  • Verify the location of structures during construction;
  • As-Built surveying: a survey conducted at the end of the construction project to verify that the work authorized was completed to the specifications set on plans.

Sub-disciplines of civil engineering

Coastal engineering

Coastal engineering is concerned with managing coastal areas. In some jurisdictions the terms sea defense and coastal protection are used to mean, respectively, defence against flooding and erosion. The term coastal defence is the more traditional term, but coastal management has become more popular as the field has expanded to include techniques that allow erosion to claim land.

Construction engineering

Building construction for several apartment blocks
Construction engineering involves planning and execution of the designs from transportation, site development, hydraulic, environmental, structural and geotechnical engineers. As construction firms tend to have higher business risk than other types of civil engineering firms, many construction engineers tend to take on a role that is more business-like in nature: drafting and reviewing contracts, evaluating logistical operations, and closely-monitoring prices of necessary supplies.

Earthquake engineering

Earthquake engineering covers ability of various structures to withstand hazardous earthquake exposures at the sites of their particular location.
Earthquake engineering is a sub discipline of the broader category of Structural engineering. The main objectives of earthquake engineering are:
Earthquake-proof  El Castillo, Chichen Itza
  • Understand interaction of structures with the shaky ground.
  • Foresee the consequences of possible earthquakes.
  • Design, construct and maintain structures to perform at earthquake exposure up to the expectations and in compliance with building codes.


There is no one typical career path for civil engineers. Most people who graduate with civil engineering degrees start with jobs that require a low level of responsibility, and as the new engineers prove their competence, they are trusted with tasks that have larger consequences and require a higher level of responsibility. However, within each branch of civil engineering career path options vary. In some fields and firms, entry-level engineers are put to work primarily monitoring construction in the field, serving as the "eyes and ears" of senior design engineers; while in other areas, entry-level engineers perform the more routine tasks of analysis or design and interpretation. Experienced engineers generally do more complex analysis or design work, or management of more complex design projects, or management of other engineers, or into specialized consulting, including forensic engineering.

Education and licensure of civil engineering

The Institution of Civil Engineers headquarters in London
Civil engineers typically possess an academic degree with a major in civil engineering. The length of study for such a degree is usually three to five years and the completed degree is usually designated as a Bachelor of Engineering, though some universities designate the degree as a Bachelor of Science. The degree generally includes units covering physics, mathematics, project management, design and specific topics in civil engineering. Initially such topics cover most, if not all, of the sub-disciplines of civil engineering. Students then choose to specialize in one or more sub-disciplines towards the end of the degree. While an Undergraduate (BEng/BSc) Degree will normally provide successful students with industry accredited qualification, some universities offer postgraduate engineering awards (MEng/MSc) which allow students to further specialize in their particular area of interest within engineering.
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. After completing a certified degree program the engineer must satisfy a range of requirements (including work experience and exam 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 (in most Commonwealth countries), Chartered Professional Engineer (in Australia and New Zealand), or European Engineer (in much of the European Union). There are international engineering agreements between relevant professional bodies which are designed to allow engineers to practice across international borders.