Computational electromagnetics, also known as electromagnetic modeling, is a fascinating study that helps scientists visualize the activity of electromagnetic waves on a given object. In computational electromagnetics, scientists use computers to solve, or at least approximate, solutions to Maxwell’s equations, mathematical formulas that describe the behavior of electric fields, magnetic fields, charges, and currents. They are a fundamental part of many areas of scientific study and advancement, including circuitry, and optics.
For computational electromagnetics, these equations are used to model the way an electromagnetic field will behave around an object. Prepared Maxwell’s equations are fed into supercomputers, though the systems are usually so complex that in most cases they aren’t completely solved, but rather approximated. This complexity arises from the number of iterations of complicated mathematical functions the computer has to perform in order to return a result. In order to get an accurate model, electromagnetic fields must be calculated for multiple instances in time, across numerous points, taking into account each possible interference or interaction. Because electricity and magnetism are linked, this is a daunting task, even for a supercomputer.
Computational electromagnetics is often used while designing communications technologies. For example, an engineer may be designing an antenna or other wireless receiver. These receivers function by detecting changes in electromagnetic waves, so it’s vital for the person designing them to be aware of how their devices interact with and create electromagnetic fields. Using computational electromagnetics practices, our friendly engineer can have an accurate visualization of the electromagnetic fields that would exist in his design.
Beginning to learn about electromagnetism can be a daunting prospect. While it is indeed complicated, electromagnetism is also one of the four known fundamental forces of physics, meaning there are limitless examples of electromagnetism in action.
Illustration of the directions in which magnetic field moves through a traditional magnet.
But what exactly is electromagnetism and where does it come from? Electromagnetism is the name given to the results of electric and magnetic forces acting on an object. Once thought to be completely separate forces, it has been discovered they actually share a close relationship with one another. For example, running an electric current through a metal wire creates a magnetic field around the wire. This field moves clockwise or counterclockwise around the wire, depending on the direction of the electric current, and emanates from it much like light or heat would. Likewise, one can create an electric current in a looped wire by moving it into an existing magnetic field.
Electromagnetism is responsible for countless interactions between atoms and their components. All matter is derived from the electromagnetic force between the atoms that make it up. Without this force, subatomic particles would fly around almost without rhyme or reason! This is because the electromagnetic force and other fundamental forces acting on subatomic particles work to hold them together. These particles typically have a charge, positive or negative, that attract them to or repel them from one another, just like play magnets have north and south poles. These charges and how they affect one another are understood through the rules of electromagnetism.
Another ubiquitous result of electromagnetism is electromagnetic radiation, more commonly known as light. All light, visible or not, is created by disturbances in electromagnetic fields. Differing rates in these disturbances lead to different kinds of light, with low-frequency disturbances creating radio waves, medium-level frequencies causing visible light, and high-frequency disturbances leading to dangerous gamma rays. These disturbances are called “photons” and are typically described as packets of light.
Electromagnetism is too complex a topic to be fully explained in a single blog post, but the Future Data Testing Department hopes that this has been a revelatory outline of some of its broad concepts.