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In electronics and electrical engineering, a fuse is an electrical safety device that operates to provide overcurrent protection of an electrical circuit including the source of power and the load. Its essential component is a metal wire or strip that melts when too much current flows through it, thereby interrupting the flow of current. It is a sacrificial device and 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, and 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 design solution to fuses, but if used as direct replacements, their different characteristics must be taken into account.
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