Learn about the history of Electromagnetic Energy (EME) and the important role it plays in our day-to-day lives.

17 June 2021

Electromagnetic Energy (EME) is an important part of modern life, but it is not new.

You'll find various sources of EME in the natural environment. It's emitted by things like the sun, the earth, the earth's atmosphere and even the human body.

Devices, machines, appliances and infrastructure that emit safe levels of artificial EME have been part of life for decades.

The more you know about the history of EME, the easier it will be to understand the crucial, and safe, role it plays in everyday life.

The discovery of electromagnetic energy

Electricity and magnetism were originally thought to be two different forces but several scientific advances in the 19th century changed this.

The big one came in 1873 when Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell released his Unified Theory of Electromagnetism.

He said electric and magnetic fields could fluctuate together, forming an electromagnetic wave. The key thing is, unlike other waves, Maxwell proposed electromagnetic waves could travel through space and, in some cases, material substances.

These types of energy can vary in wavelength and frequency and this makes a difference to the way they behave. Radiofrequency EME (RF EME) for example is characterised by long wavelengths and lower frequencies.

Early uses of radiofrequency electromagnetic energy

German physicist Heinrich Hertz proved Maxwell's theory in 1887. He became the first person to generate radio waves in his lab.

Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi took the next step in 1894 and developed the first practical radio transmitters and receivers. He got the ball rolling, and before too long radio waves were a part of day-to-day life.

Marconi was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work and RF EME started to be regularly used in communications.

RF EME and the 5G network

Fast forward a hundred years or so and RF EME is still a big part of life.

The systems might seem a bit more complicated, but the same basic principles of science apply.

The rollout of the 5G network is the perfect example.

While 5G requires new infrastructure, it would be wrong to consider it as something ‘brand new'. 5G is just the next version of 3G and 4G.

It works on the same basic principle - sending and receiving information using radio waves.

And because every part of the 5G network is subject to the same standards as 4G, 3G, 2G and 1G, you can be sure it's safe.  Australia has a very strict standard when it comes to protecting people from EME from wireless communications. This standard is based on decades of national and international scientific research.

The standard is set by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), an independent authority that undertakes its own research and provides expert advice on radiation protection to the Australian Government.

The more you know about EME the more comfortable you will feel

EME has been a part of everyday life for a long time.

And because the science behind EME has been around for just as long, you can feel confident about the way it's used and regulated in day-to-day life.

That's the science of safe connection.