The Fundamentals of Electricity
We all have at least a rough idea of what electricity is, and its functions in everyday life. But there is a more complicated understanding of electricity behind what you see, which not even physicists completely understand. To do our best to get an understanding, let’s start with the basic concepts of electricity.
The first concept of electricity would be the electrical charge. Protons and electrons are two of the tiny particles that make up atoms. Protons have a positive charge while electrons have a negative charge.
Next, we’ll want to look at electrical current. This refers to the flow of electrical charge carried by electrons as they jump from atom to atom. A demonstration of this would be when you turn on a light switch. The electrical current flows from the switch through the wire to the light and then the bulb lights up. Atoms through which current flows easily are conductors; electricity does not flow as easily through insulators.
An electrical circuit is a closed loop made of conductors and other elements that electricity can flow through. A simple circuit might consist of a battery, a lamp and an electrical wire that will connect the two. Circuits can get much more complicated, consisting of millions of components. But the principal will always remain the same, which say, a closed loop with all components working to conduct electricity through.
Here are some other bullet points it may be useful to know about electricity, if you don’t know them already:
- Electricity, as we know it, comes from power plants that burn coal, catch wind or harness nuclear reactions. It travels to our houses from the power plants through big cables that can hang in the air or are buried in the ground.
- Electricity can be measured in volts. Household electricity is 120V while flashlight batteries are 1.5V and car batteries are 12V.
- Electricity can also be measured in watts. Light bulbs can be 60, 75 or 100 watts. Microwave ovens and hair dryers are 1000 or 1200 watts.
- We can also measure electricity in amps. An electrical outlet may be measured in amps with a typical household outlet measuring 15 amps.