As you go about your day, using all sorts of electronic devices, from your cell phone to your computer, you may not give a second thought to the importance of the converter. But without this tiny little component, none of those devices would work. In fact, the converter is one of the most important parts of any electronic device. They change not only the voltage but also the frequency of the current that flows through them. There are several different types of converters, each with its own specific purpose, but perhaps the best way to understand the importance of converters is to see all the interesting ways they are used in tech devices.
1. Consumer Electronics
Simply put, it is a device that converts one type of electrical signal into another. For example, in most cell phones and laptops, there is an AC/DC converter that converts the 120-volt AC current from wall outlets into the 3-volt DC current that powers the electronics. There’s a range of AC to DC converters since the voltage in different parts of the world can vary a great deal. One of the most common uses for converters is in cell phone chargers. Cell Phone batteries operate on a different voltage than AC outlets, so without a converter, the phone would not be able to charge. Most laptop chargers also use a converter to change the voltage from 120 volts to something that is compatible with the laptop’s battery. Another common application for converters is in gadgets that run on batteries. Many battery-operated gadgets, such as flashlights and portable radios, have a converter built into them that changes the 12 volts DC from the battery into the 110 volts AC needed to power the device.
2. Gas And Electric Cars
Automobiles use a wide range of electronic devices, from headlights to engine control systems, and all those devices need converters to convert the 12-volt DC current from the battery into the voltages and frequencies they need to run. In some cases, such as with LED headlights, the converter is built right into the light bulb. In other cases, such as with radios and air conditioners, there is a separate box that contains all the necessary converters. One of the most important converters in an automobile is the alternator. The alternator is responsible for converting the mechanical energy from the engine into electrical energy that can be used to power the car’s electronics. It also charges the car’s battery. For those more interested in green living, there is the electric car. Electric cars run on direct current (DC) rather than the alternating current (AC) that is used in gas cars. To convert from AC to DC, a converter is needed to change the voltage and frequency of the current. Without converters both gas and electric cars would not be able to function.
3. Medical Devices
One of the most important uses for converters is in medical devices. Many life-saving devices, such as heart monitors and defibrillators, use converters to change the voltage and frequency of the current. This is necessary because the standard voltage and frequency in hospitals are different from what is used in residential areas. Another application for converters in medical devices is in portable oxygen tanks. The tanks run on a battery that supplies 12 volts DC, but the hospital’s oxygen machines use 120 volts AC. To convert from one voltage to another, a converter is needed to change both the voltage and the frequency. In other words, if you need to use any type of medical device outside of your home, you’re going to need a converter.
4. The Military
The military is another area where converters are used extensively. One of the most common applications is in radios. Military radios use a wide range of frequencies, and each frequency requires its own specific type of converter. Without converters, the radios would not be able to communicate with one another. Another common application for converters in the military is in night vision goggles. The goggles use infrared light to see in the dark, and that light needs to be converted into visible light so that the user can see it. To do this, a special type of converter called an image intensifier is used. Image intensifiers are used in other devices as well, such as thermal imagers and infrared cameras. Of course, the various defense systems used by the military also require converters to convert one type of voltage or frequency into another.
5. The Space Program
The space program is another area where converters are used extensively. One of the most important applications is in satellites. All satellites use a variety of electronic devices, and all those devices need converters to convert the 12-volt DC current from the battery into the voltages and frequencies they need to run. Another common application for converters in space is in solar panels. Solar panels use direct current (DC) to convert sunlight into electrical energy, and that energy needs to be converted into alternating current (AC) so that it can be used by the other devices on the satellite. Without converters, both satellites and solar panels would not be able to function.
Telecommunications is another area where converters are used extensively. One of the most common applications is in modems. Modems use a variety of frequencies to communicate with the other devices on the network, and each frequency requires its own specific type of converter. Without converters, modems would not be able to communicate with one another. Another common application for converters in telecommunications is in telephone networks. The telephone network uses a variety of voltages and frequencies, and each voltage and frequency requires its own specific type of converter. This means that when you make a telephone call, the voltage and frequency of the current are converted several times before it reaches your phone.
7. Industrial Equipment
In industrial settings, converters are used to power all sorts of machinery. From large machines that cut and shape metal to small machines that drill and screw together pieces of wood, they all need converters to convert the voltage and frequency of the current into something that is compatible with their internal electronics. In some cases, such as with CNC machines, there are multiple converters within the machine itself, each one converting a different voltage or frequency. And like automobiles, industrial equipment often has a converter built into the alternator to convert the voltage and frequency of the current as it is generated.
As you can see, converters are an essential part of our technology-driven world. They are used in a wide variety of devices, from radios and night vision goggles to satellites and industrial equipment. And while most of us take them for granted, the truth is that without converters, our technology would not work. So the next time you’re using your laptop, making a telephone call, or watching TV, remember that converters are playing a behind-the-scenes role in making it all possible.