Steven McFadyen's Articles

Steven is a Chartered electrical engineering consultant with considerable experience on major internationally recognised and award winning projects in Europe, South East Asia, and the Middle East. His expertise has been called on for numerous technically challenging projects in power systems, airports, rail, mining, pharmaceutical, datacentre, and other industries.

Capacitor Theory

Capacitors are widely used in electrical engineering for functions such as energy storage, power factor correction, voltage compensation and many others.  Capacitance is also inherent in any electrical distribution systems and can play a pivotal role in it's operation.

In order to fully understand capacitors and their use, it is essential that electrical practitioners have a good understanding of capacitor theory.

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Introduction to Cathodic Protection

If two dissimilar metals are touching and an external conducting path exists, corrosion of one the metals can take place.  Moisture or other materials acting as an electrolyte between the metals create an electrochemical cells  (similar to that of a battery).  Depending on the metals, one will act as a cathode and one as an anode of the cell. 

Under this arrangement, stray d.c. currents will flow. In the same was a a normal cell, an electrochemical reaction takes place and there is a resulting corrosion of the anode.

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Frame Leakage Protection

While not as popular as it once was, frame leakage protection does still have some use in some circumstances.  In essence frame leakage is an earth fault type protection.  A current transformer installed in a connection from the frame to earth monitors  any fault current and operates an instantaneous relay.

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What is Aircraft Ground Power

Ever wondered what kind of power an aircraft uses when parked at the airport stand.

Normally the aircraft generates it own power, but when parked with the engines switched off power provided by the airport would be connected to the plane.  This connected power is typically 115 V at 400 Hz and is called ground power.

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Photovoltaic (PV) - Utility Power Grid Interface

Photovoltaic (PV) systems are typically more efficient when connected in parallel with a main power gird. During periods when the PV system generates energy this can be utilized and the grid energy used at other times.

For large PV systems, any connection interface is likely to need discussion with the power network operator. For smaller systems (around 10 kVA), there are existing standards which will facilitate making a functional and safe grid connection. This note looks at some of the standards.

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Fault Calculation - Per Unit System

Per unit fault calculations is a method whereby system impedances and quantities are normalised across different voltage levels to a common base.  By removing the impact of varying voltages, the necessary calculations are simplified.  

To use the per unit method, we normalise all the system impedances (and admittances) within the network under consideration to a common base.  These normalised impedances are know as per unit impedances.  Any per unit impedance will have the same value on both the primary and secondary of a transformer and is independent of voltage level.

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Fault Calculation - Symmetrical Components

For unbalance conditions the calculation of fault currents is more complex. One method of dealing with this is symmetrical components. Using symmetrical components, the unbalance system is broken down in to three separate symmetrical systems:

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Robotics - Home Innovations

We have a sister note to this (Robots - Interesting Video), in which I have posted some videos of interesting robots developed by commercial corporations and institutions.  While these are great in themselves, there is a whole range of innovation carried out by hobbyist and amateurs. In this note, I intend to post videos of interesting robotics projects I come across which have not been developed by big institutions.

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Multimeters are undoubtedly the most common item of electrical test equipment in use.  Often it is the first piece of equipment people will turn to when trying to visualize and obtain data on an electrical system.

As the name suggests, a multimeter is an single meter with the ability to measure several electrical quantities. Nearly all multimeters will include the measurement of at voltage, current and resistance.

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IEC 60287 Current Capacity of Cables - Rated Current

In the previous note we looked at the approach taken by the standard to the sizing of cables and illustrated this with an example.  We then looked at one method of applying the standard and identified resources enabling the calculation of all the various parameters involved.   In the note we are going to put everything together and reveal the necessary equations for actually calculating the cable maximum current rating.

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Introduction to Current Transformers

Current transformers (CTs) are used to convert high level currents to a smaller more reasonable level for use as inputs to protection relays and metering equipment.  Within electrical systems, current transformers are essential to ensure the correct functioning and control of equipment and for providing operational data and information.

This introductory note looks at the construction of current transformers and their specification

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HTML Symbol Entities

HTML supports a variety of entity symbols which can be entered using either numbers or an entity name.  The number or name is preceded by the ‘&’ sign and ends in a semi-colon (;).  To enter a symbol switch to HTML view in the editor and enter the number or name (Ω for example).  

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UPS Sizing - Rules of Thumb

It wasn't so long ago I was telling someone that I don't use rules of thumb as most things are easily calculated anyhow.   As it turns out I last week...

Cost Performance and Time

Often us engineers get so bogged down in equations, using software, producing drawings and writing specifications that this becomes the sole focus.   ...

International System of Units (SI System)

The International System of Units (abbreviated SI) is the world's most widely used system of units.  The system consists of a set of units and prefixes...

Understanding LV Circuit Breaker Fault Ratings

I think this post is going to be helpful to several of our readers. While the IEC low voltage circuit breaker Standard [IEC 60947-2, Low voltage switchgear...


A battery consists of one or more cells, each of which use stored chemical energy to produce electrical energy, There are many types of cells and these...

Thomas Edison

American inventor Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio on February 11, 1847. He was the youngest of seven children and received little formal schooling...

GE's Shingijutsu Factory

GE's latest thinking on product manufacturing is he Shingijutsu philosophy or Lean production system. They have started applying this at the Louisville...

Voltage Levels to IEC 60038

The standard aims to consolidate AC and traction voltages within the industry and defines the following bands: band 1 - A.C. systems 100 V to 1...

What are you reading!

Reading is a bit of a hobby of mine and I"ve done a few off-topic posts in the past on this. Rather than continue doing the occasional post I thought ...

How to Calculate Motor Starting Time

Request to look at induction motor starting time have come up a few times on the site. Hopefully in this post, I give you guys some idea on how to calculate...

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