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AlexM

Which degree to work on electric propulsion ?

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Hi 

I am in college and plan to declare an engineering major. 

I am really interested in electric propulsion for whether ground vehicles or spacecrafts. I would like to work with ion or plasma thrusters and any system that will provide electric propulsion from solar arrays. 

I guess my question is what are the challenges in ion / plasma thrusters and solar energy ? Are they more linked to mechanical or electrical engineering ? Or even aerospace engineering ? 

Which major would provide me with the best skill set to work in this field ? 

Its confusing because on a forum about ion thrusters with some NASA engineers most of them were aerospace or mechanical engineers but isn’t electric propulsion as in accelerating ions related to electrical engineering ? 

Plus electrical engineering has a field called power engineering but is it only power as in power grid or how to convert electrical power to movement ? 

Also so what are the biggest challenges in solar energy related to ? Mechanical ? As in materials ? Thermos etc ? Or electrical for storage and transmission of energy captured ? 

 

Thank you for your answers in advance . 

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Most of the engineers I've encountered who work(ed) on designing SEP were electrical engineers, with a few material scientists mixed in. Aerospace and mechanical engineers who worked on SEP (and NEP) were primarily working the systems engineering aspects of the projects. It's the higher level types (i.e. system engineering types) that NASA parades out in public forums.

I don't know about the specific issues facing EP, but materials is always a challenge (limitation?) with any emerging or next gen technology.

Power engineering is concerned more with terrestrial applications; I think of it more like more like the grid management and transmission but I could be wrong. I don't work in that area. Power conversion tends to be mechanical engineers. Solar power would be EE and materials.

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On 1/9/2018 at 1:37 PM, AlexM said:

Plus electrical engineering has a field called power engineering but is it only power as in power grid or how to convert electrical power to movement ? 

Also so what are the biggest challenges in solar energy related to ? Mechanical ? As in materials ? Thermos etc ? Or electrical for storage and transmission of energy captured ? 

42 minutes ago, RBHeadge PE said:

Power engineering is concerned more with terrestrial applications; I think of it more like more like the grid management and transmission but I could be wrong. I don't work in that area. Power conversion tends to be mechanical engineers. Solar power would be EE and materials.

As a practicing power engineer, allow me to add my insight. Power engineering is quite vast in terms of applications. It spans anywhere from transmission, distribution, grid management, transformation, power conversion (e.g. VFDs, semiconductors, etc.), E&M, electric machines, protective relaying, energy/battery storage, and so on.

Electrical power conversion is most definitely not mechanical. Solar, wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal, etc. are all areas of alternative power generation. And more recently, even PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) are even now inclusive of the power engineering fields. HTH

 

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I think you want a physics / science degree more.   :blink:

Engineering i find is typically more about application in practice.   In school study tends to be far too wide reaching to provide any type of useful focus... Especially on something as specific as what you are looking for. 

What will help you more is the connections,  hobbies,  and internships you reach for then the specific degree you receive. 

The thing about electrical systems is they are primarily support systems in most cases.  We design the anenna but only to transmit a signal.   We design the power line but only to supply the load.  We deisgn the hardware to support the software.  Very rarely is the electrical system the product actually needed even If required,  if that makes sense.   we work within the constrains imposed upon us

Electrical usually gets to come in at the end when they have a list of impossible requirements and told to make it happen. 

Edited by Szar

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2 hours ago, knight1fox3 said:

Electrical power conversion is most definitely not mechanical. Solar, wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal, etc. are all areas of alternative power generation. And more recently, even PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) are even now inclusive of the power engineering fields. HTH

 

You are right. I was thinking more narrowly about turbine and engine design.

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