What Is Thermal Electrical Engineering?

Thermal energy refers to the energy that is caused by heat. Thermal electrical engineers manage the heat that is created by electronics and electrical systems. When working with thermal electrical engineering, specialists will model energy systems and heat-mass transfer in order to learn how to cool systems efficiently. Read the article below for a detailed explanation of thermal electrical engineering. Schools offering Electrical Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

An Overview of Thermal Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineers work with electronics and electrical systems to design machinery, wiring systems and motors. Dealing with the heat or thermal energy generated by electrical systems is an important aspect of an electrical engineer's job. Although most machines and electrical systems generate heat, the heat may not be needed for a machine to work. Thermal electrical engineers determine how to cool systems and prevent them from overheating.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Entry-level Education Bachelor's degree
Key Skills Concentration, math skills, interpersonal skills
Median Salary (2014) $91,410 (for electrical engineers)
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 4% growth (for electrical engineers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Thermoelectric Effect

The thermoelectric effect is a key concept that forms the foundation of thermal electrical engineering. It refers to the conversion of temperature differences into electrical voltage. The thermoelectric effect addresses the science underlying cooking, heating and cooling as well as the generating of electricity and the measuring of temperatures.

The thermoelectric effect is comprised of three components:

  • Seebeck Effect: This refers to a temperature difference between two dissimilar materials or conductors which causes a current to flow through the circuit.
  • Peltier Effect: This is the phenomenon that defines the temperature difference that arises when an element from the thermoelectric series has wires connected to it to form a circuit.
  • Thomson Effect: This occurs when a conductor that is unevenly heated causes heat to flow into or out of the material when electrical currents flow between the two points.

Applications of Thermal Electrical Engineering

Thermal electrical engineers must have practical experience in the development, construction and operation of thermal energy conversion systems and components. This is typically gained in laboratory settings and in real-world applications.

The engineers must use their knowledge of various methods, functions and relationships between systems and diverse components of thermal energy conversion technology to formulate solutions for numerous purposes. This includes the heating or cooling of various processes, equipment or encased settings:

  • Microprocessors
  • Electronic equipment
  • Power plants
  • Thermal system and imaging equipment
  • Thermal Storage systems - hot water tanks and air conditioning systems

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