Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Electric and electronics

  1. Mar 20, 2005 #1
    What is the difference between the words " electrical " and " electronics"?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2005 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The difference is subtle, but typically the word "electrical" is used to describe something mechanical which uses electricity for power, such as an electric motor. The word "electronic," on the other hand, is typically used to describe devices which process information, typically using small voltages.

    - Warren
  4. Mar 20, 2005 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Hmmmm. So my radiant 'electric' heater is neither. It has no moving parts (not mechanical) and does not process information. Same would go for an incandescent light bulb.

    Anything that uses electricity can be considered electrical. From here on is where it gets into a gray area.

    I may not remember this correctly but it seems I was told that in order to qualify as electronic the device has to control or manipulate the electric current at the electron level such as a transistor as opposed to a set of contacts. Many people don't consider vacuum tubes or any electrical technology older than the transistor to be electronic or 'solid state' but some are. An incandescent light bulbs behavior can really only be described by discussing electrons. Technically you could say the same thing about a set of contacts, so who knows...

    My 2 cents, probably worth less than that.
  5. Mar 31, 2005 #4
    well when the first day i entered into the class , our instructor asked the same question
    but he answered on the basis of frequency as it recurs to me.
    electrical things operate at no or very less frequency whereas electronics operate at high frequency
  6. Apr 1, 2005 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I would say that frequency has nothing to do with it.
  7. Apr 3, 2005 #6


    User Avatar

    Back in Engineering School we used to say that electrical deals with kilovolts, ohms and amperes and electronics deals with volts, kiloohms and milliamperes.
  8. Apr 4, 2005 #7
    It's generally known that electrical is for mains supply and up. And electronic is for lower voltage circuits.

    Examples of Electrical Engineering: Mains loops, heating, lighting, electrical appliances, vehicles, industry, etc - basically anything using at least mains cable wire.

    Examples of Electronic Engineering: Timers, radio, audio/video equipment, gadgets - basically anything using wire measured using awg (e.g. 28awg)

    Then there's micorelectronics which refer to chips/IC's and programming, etc.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2005
  9. Apr 5, 2005 #8
    The difference is this: "Electronic" means that electrical current flows through devices that use either semiconductors or a vacuum: eg, vacuum tubes, bipolar transistors, FETs, etc.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook