Technical Discourse—One Idea Always Leads to Another

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  • Author: Gary Breed
I suspect many engineers have the same stimulating experience. I’m willing to bet that something like this series of events has happened to you: You attend a paper on a topic that is not in your primary area of specialization, but is either somewhat related to your work or simply sounds interesting. In the course of delivering the paper, the presenter makes a simple statement that has a direct impact on your work, but in a completely unexpected manner. As a result you solve a particularly sticky problem. Or, perhaps you realize a new approach for improved performance. For example, after attending his first paper on “defected ground planes,” an attending engineer realized that the out-of-spec spurious response in his amplifier-filter design could be a problem with a resonance within the ground plane metal of the printed circuit board. I never heard the result, but he certainly was excited to have a potential solution to a troubling performance problem. At another conference, a group across the table at an evening reception was discussing thermal analysis. This was a few years ago, and one of the engineers had attended a paper on silicon carbide power devices. The author had reviewed thermal performance computations and made a few off-hand comments about energy density and heat transfer. Those comments triggered ideas that were excitedly discussed with the engineer’s colleagues—these were IC designers, not power amplifier designers, but apparently they were already planning improvements to the heat dissipation in the devices they were working on.