What is electricity? Where does electricity come from? How does electricity work?
The name “electricity” is derived from the Greek word "elektor," meaning "beaming sun." In Greek, "elektron" is the word for amber. Amber is a gold-brown colored "stone" that is actually fossilized tree sap.
Electricity is a property of certain subatomic particles which couples to electromagnetic fields and causes attractive and repulsive forces between them. This repulsive force between the subatomic particles creates an electric current; the flow of electric charge transports energy from one atom to another. The electrical current is measured in amperes, where 1 ampere is the flow of 62,000,000,000,000,000,000 electrons per second!
Wait just a minute……help me understand all that! To understand electricity we must first understand atoms and their structure.
All matter is made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of smaller particles. The three main particles making up an atom are the proton, the neutron and the electron.
Electrons spin around the center, or nucleus, of atoms, in the same way the earth spins around the sun. The nucleus is made up of neutrons and protons.
Electrons contain a negative charge, protons a positive charge. Neutrons are neutral — they have neither a positive nor a negative charge.
There are many different kinds of atoms, one for each type of element. An atom is a single part that makes up an element. There are 118 different known elements. The mass accumulation of elements makes up every thing we can see, touch, hear, and smell (elements are even in things we can’t see).
Each atom has a specific number of electrons, protons and neutrons. But no matter how many particles an atom has, the number of electrons usually needs to be the same as the number of protons. If the numbers are the same, the atom is called balanced, and it is very stable.
Some kinds of atoms have loosely attached electrons. An atom that loses electrons has more protons than electrons and is positively charged. An atom that gains electrons has more negative particles and is negatively charge. A "charged" atom is called an "ion."
The very nature of a positive atom is that it attracts electrons (negative charged atoms) to in effect balance the positive atom. Why, not sure, and for this article not pertinent. What is necessary to know is that the flow of elections to protons is essence of electricity.
You see electrons can be engineered to move from one atom to another. When those electrons move between the atoms, a current or flow of electricity is created. The electrons move from one atom to another in a "flow." One electron is attached and another electron is lost. This creates a continual equilibrium amongst the atoms.
Engineers however have found several ways to create large numbers of positive atoms and free negative electrons. Since positive atoms want negative electrons so they can be balanced, they have a strong attraction for the electrons. The manufactured disequilibrium creates a state of continuous flow of electrons to atoms with an overpopulation of protons (positive atoms).
When electrons move from atom to atom a current of electricity is created. This is what happens in a piece of wire. The electrons are passed from atom to atom, creating an electrical current from one end to other end.
There are two possible types of electric flow, direct current flow and alternating current flow. Direct current means that the flow of charges is in one direction. A battery produces direct current (DC) because there is no way to change the + and – you see on the battery. Alternating current (AC) has electrons in the circuit that quickly move first in one direction and then in the opposite direction, alternating back and forth between relatively fixed positions. When you use a transformer, you are using AC. PDAs, cellular phones and other common items use an AC adapter or transformer which helps extend the longevity of the item.
Until next time – Dan Hagopian, BatteryShip.com
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