In electronics and electrical engineering, a fuse is an electrical safety device that operates to provide overcurrent protection of an electrical circuit. Its essential component is a metal wire or strip that melts when too much current flows through it, thereby interrupting the current. It is a sacrificial device; once a fuse has operated it is an open circuit, and it must be replaced or rewired, depending on type. MEM rewirable fuse box with four rewirable fuse holders (two 30 A and two 15 A) installed c. 1957 (cover removed)MEM rewirable fuse holders (30 A and 15 A)Wylex standard fuse box with eight rewirable fuse holdersFuse wire as sold to UK consumersEdison base (left) and Type S fuses (right)An older fuse box of the type used in North America In electronics and electrical engineering, a fuse is an electrical safety device that operates to provide overcurrent protection of an electrical circuit. Its essential component is a metal wire or strip that melts when too much current flows through it, thereby interrupting the current. It is a sacrificial device; once a fuse has operated it is an open circuit, and it must be replaced or rewired, depending on type. Fuses have been used as essential safety devices from the early days of electrical engineering. Today there are thousands of different fuse designs which have specific current and voltage ratings, breaking capacity and response times, depending on the application. The time and current operating characteristics of fuses are chosen to provide adequate protection without needless interruption. Wiring regulations usually define a maximum fuse current rating for particular circuits. Short circuits, overloading, mismatched loads, or device failure are the prime reasons for fuse operation. A fuse is an automatic means of removing power from a faulty system; often abbreviated to ADS (Automatic Disconnection of Supply). Circuit breakers can be used as an alternative to fuses, but have significantly different characteristics. Breguet recommended the use of reduced-section conductors to protect telegraph stations from lightning strikes; by melting, the smaller wires would protect apparatus and wiring inside the building. A variety of wire or foil fusible elements were in use to protect telegraph cables and lighting installations as early as 1864. A fuse was patented by Thomas Edison in 1890 as part of his electric distribution system. A fuse consists of a metal strip or wire fuse element, of small cross-section compared to the circuit conductors, mounted between a pair of electrical terminals, and (usually) enclosed by a non-combustible housing. The fuse is arranged in series to carry all the current passing through the protected circuit. The resistance of the element generates heat due to the current flow. The size and construction of the element is (empirically) determined so that the heat produced for a normal current does not cause the element to attain a high temperature. If too high a current flows, the element rises to a higher temperature and either directly melts, or else melts a soldered joint within the fuse, opening the circuit. The fuse element is made of zinc, copper, silver, aluminum, or alloys to provide stable and predictable characteristics. The fuse ideally would carry its rated current indefinitely, and melt quickly on a small excess. The element must not be damaged by minor harmless surges of current, and must not oxidize or change its behavior after possibly years of service.