Electromagnetics plays a major role in communication and is an essential part of most areas in Electrical Engineering. Microwaves are the vehicles that carry our messages. Antennas launch and capture these waves; they are transmitted within systems by means of cables, transmission lines, waveguides, or optical techniques. Propagation between systems takes place in the atmosphere, sometimes through the earth or the ocean. The propagation is accompanied by reflections from the ionosphere, refraction and bending in nonuniform media. The design of systems requires thorough knowledge of these phenomena.
Recent problems in this area involve the use of higher frequencies to accommodate wider bandwidths and transmit more messages. The use of optical frequencies with the advent of the laser requires new types of waveguides: fibers and quasi-optical guides. Satellites play an increasing role in communication, replacing cables and earth-bound microwave links. They will require more sophisticated antennas to fully realize their capabilities.
A form of communication that is growing in importance is commonly called "remote sensing." It consists of sending known signals through the medium to be analyzed and interpreting the received signals in terms of the medium's properties. Radar is an example of remote sensing where distance and velocity of a target are deduced from a received echo. Ionospheric sounding is another example. Remote sensing can be used to explore the underground or to "look" inside the human body with obvious application to medicine. The area is in active development, and with the help of modern computers and techniques such as holography, one can hope to see the invisible.
The opportunities for invention and for imaginative work, in this area as well as others, are greater than ever because the base on which to build is wider than ever. This also means that the various areas of engineering interact more strongly with each other and that one should avoid becoming a narrow specialist.
An undergraduate curriculum in Electromagnetics prepares students entering many different professional fields including antennas, microwave, radar and communication, optics, wave scattering and propagation, and microwave solid-state devices.
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