What is meant to be Electrical and Electronic Engineering?

Prof. Dr. Engr. Muhibul Haque Bhuyan
(Life Fellow, IEB; Executive and Life Member, BEIS; Member, IEEE)
Professor and Former Chairman
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE)
Southeast University

Prof. Dr. Engr. Muhibul Haque Bhuyan
Prof. Dr. Engr. Muhibul Haque Bhuyan


Engineering is the application of science to the optimum conversion of the resources of nature to the uses of humankind. The field has been defined by the Engineers Council for Professional Development, in the United States, as the creative application of “scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design, or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.”

Electrical and Electronic Engineering, the branch of engineering concerned with the practical applications of electricity in all its forms, including those of the field of electronics. Electricity, a phenomenon associated with the stationary or moving electric charges, a fundamental property of matter and is borne by elementary particles, the electron, which carries a negative charge. The various manifestations of electricity are the result of the accumulation or motion of numbers of electrons.

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Electronics engineering is that branch of electrical engineering concerned with the uses of the electromagnetic spectrum and with the application of such electronic devices as integrated circuits and transistors as well as photonic devices. Electronics, a branch of electrical engineering that deals with the emission, behavior, and effects of electrons and with electronic devices. Electronics encompasses an exceptionally broad range of technology. The term originally was applied to the study of electron behavior and movement, particularly as observed in the first electron tubes. It came to be used in its broader sense with advances in knowledge about the fundamental nature of electrons and about how the motion of these particles could be utilized. Today many scientific and technical disciplines deal with different aspects of electronics.

In engineering practice, the distinction between electrical engineering and electronics is usually based on the comparative strength of the electric currents used. In this sense, electrical engineering is the branch dealing with “heavy current”, that is, electric light and power systems and apparatuses, whereas electronics engineering deals with such “light current” applications as telephone and radio communication, computers, radar, and automatic control systems.

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The distinction between the fields has become less sharp with technical progress. For example, in the high-voltage transmission of electric power, large arrays of electronic devices are used to convert transmission-line current at power levels in the tens of megawatts. Moreover, in the regulation and control of interconnected power systems, electronic computers are used to compute power requirements much more rapidly and accurately than is possible by manual methods.


Electrical phenomena attracted the attention of European thinkers as early as the 17th century. The most noteworthy pioneers include Ludwig Wilhelm Gilbert and Georg Simon Ohm of Germany, Hans Christian Oersted of Denmark, André-Marie Ampère of France, Alessandro Volta of Italy, Joseph Henry of the United States, and Michael Faraday of England. In l831, Michael Faraday discovered ‘Electromagnetic Induction’ which is the basic working principles of generators, motors, and transformers. He is known as the Father of Electrical Engineering for his most influential contribution to electricity generation and transmission principle Electromagnetism. Electrical engineering may be said to have emerged as a discipline in 1864 when the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell summarized the basic laws of electricity in mathematical form and showed that radiation of electromagnetic energy travels through space at the speed of light. Thus, light itself was shown to be an electromagnetic wave, and Maxwell predicted that such waves could be artificially produced. In 1887 the German physicist Heinrich Hertz fulfilled Maxwell’s prediction by experimentally producing radio waves.

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The first practical application of electricity was the telegraph, invented by Samuel F.B. Morse in 1837. The need for electrical engineers was not felt until some 40 years later, upon the invention of the telephone (1876) by Alexander Graham Bell and of the incandescent lamp (1878) by Thomas Alva Edison. These devices and Edison’s first central generating plant, in New York City (1882), created a large demand for people trained to work with electricity.

The discovery of thermionic emission, or the “Edison effect,” a flow of current through the vacuum of one of his lamps, was the first observation of current in space. Hendrik Antoon Lorentz of the Netherlands postulated the electron theory of electrical charge in 1892, and in 1897 John J. Thomson of England showed that thermionic emission was indeed caused by negatively charged particles (electrons). This led to the work of Guglielmo Marconi of Italy, Lee de Forest of the United States, and many others, which laid the foundations of radio engineering. In 1930, the term electronics was introduced to embrace radio and the industrial applications of electron tubes. Since 1947, when the transistor was invented by John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain, and William B. Shockley, electronics engineering has been dominated by the applications of such solid-state electronic devices as the transistor, the semiconductor diode, and the integrated circuit.

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Functions of EEE

The functions performed by electrical and electronics engineers include (1) basic research in physics, other sciences, and applied mathematics to extend knowledge applicable to the field of electronics, (2) applied research based on the findings of basic research and directed at discovering new applications and principles of operation, (3) development of new materials, devices, assemblies, and systems suitable for existing or proposed product lines, (4) design of devices, equipment, and systems for manufacture, (5) field-testing of equipment and systems, (6) establishment of quality control standards to be observed in manufacture, (7) supervision of manufacture and production testing, (8) postproduction assessment of performance, maintenance, and repair, and (9) engineering management, or the direction of research, development, engineering, manufacture, and marketing and sales.

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The rapid proliferation of discoveries, products, and markets in the electrical and electronics industries has made it difficult for workers in the field to maintain the range of skills required to manage their activities. Consulting engineers, specializing in new fields, are employed to study and recommend courses of action.

The educational background required for these functions tends to be highest in basic and applied research. In most major laboratories a doctorate in science or engineering is required to fill leadership roles. Most positions in design, product development, and supervision of manufacture and quality control require a master’s degree. In the high-technology industries typical of modern electronics, an engineering background at not less than the bachelor’s level is required to assess competitive factors in sales engineering to guide marketing strategy.

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Branches of EEE

The largest of the specialized branches of electrical engineering, the branch concerned with the electronic computer, was introduced during World War II. The field of computer science and engineering has attracted members of several disciplines outside electronics, notably logicians, linguists, and applied mathematicians.

Another very large field is that concerned with electric light and power and their applications. Specialties within the field include the design, manufacture, and use of turbines, generators, transmission lines, transformers, motors, lighting systems, and appliances.

A third major field is that of communications, which comprises not only telephony but also satellite communications and the transmission of voice and data by laser signals through optical-fiber networks. The communication of digital data among computers connected by wire, microwave, and satellite circuits is now a major enterprise that has built a strong bond between computer and communications specialists.

The applications of electricity and electronics to other fields of science have expanded since World War II. Among the sciences represented are medicine, biology, oceanography, geoscience, nuclear science, laser physics, sonics and ultrasonics, and acoustics. Theoretical specialties within electronics include circuit theory, information theory, radio-wave propagation, and microwave theory.

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Another important specialty concerns improvements in materials and components used in electrical and electronic engineering, such as conductive, magnetic, and insulating materials and the semiconductors used in solid-state devices. One of the most active areas is the development of new electronic devices, particularly the integrated circuits used in computers and other digital systems.

The development of electronic systems, equipment for consumers, such as radios, television sets, stereo equipment, video games, and home computers, occupies a large number of engineers. Another field is the application of computers and radio systems to automobiles, ships, and other vehicles. The field of aerospace electronic systems includes navigation aids for aircraft, automatic pilots, altimeters, and radar for traffic control, blind landing, and collision prevention. Many of these devices are also widely used in various other fields as well.

Growing Fields of EEE

The fields of electrical and electronic engineering are growing very fast. Few of these fastest-growing fields are mentioned here.

The trend in electronic devices is towards smaller and lighter, with an increase in functionality and higher density printed circuit boards (PCBs). So, high-density interconnect (HDI) continues to be the fastest-growing segment of the PCB market. Different solutions have been proposed, such as the fabrication of fine line circuitries and a reduction in space/pitch between the lines. Micro-via technology is another solution to the challenges imposed by the miniaturization of components in current electronic assemblies.

Electrical machines are currently built by industry with ratings between 2 GW and some mW, all being based on the same electromagnetic principle and similar designs, e.g. with windings located in the slots of a magnetic core. Further miniaturization has to face numerous challenges. So, thin-film technology is being used for depositing and structuring soft and hard magnetic material as well as copper for conductors and insulation.

Thermal management under high heat flux is crucial to developing high-power light-emitting diode (LED) applications. An efficient thermal dissipation technique is used for an LED backlight unit system.

Aging wiring in cars, aircraft, trains, and other transportation means is identified as a critical security area. New methodologies for wire diagnosis allowing the detection, localization, and characterization of the fault in wiring networks are developed.

Online monitoring of power transformers has been revealed to be an issue of important concern for electric utilities and transformer holders. Costs associated with failures in these expensive machines, along with sudden and long-lasting outages, are important in exploitation results. Detection of winding inter-turn faults in both station transformers and generator transformers is possible through it.