Properties Of Electricity

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Electricity is a generic name that refers to the flow of energy in the form of electrons in a conductor. There are many aspects of electricity that define its properties, like electric current, voltage, resistance and electric power.  Before we learn about them, let us learn about the basics of electricity.

Structure of an Atom and Electricity

An atom is a fundamental piece of matter. It is the smallest unit in any material. It is composed of a positively charged nucleus at the center and negatively charged electrons that orbit around the nucleus. The electrons are bound in their orbit as the positively charged nucleus attracts them. But the electrons in the outermost bands are loosely bound and are capable of moving from one atom to another. Electricity is the energy associated with the flow of electrons from one place to another in a conductor. This is the basic principle of electricity.

Materials that allow many electrons to move freely are known as conductors. For e.g. metals like copper, aluminum, gold and silver. Materials that allow few electrons to move are known as insulators like wood, plastic, paper and rubber.

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Electric Circuit

An electric circuit is a closed-loop or a complete pathway that allows electricity to pass through. It must include a device that gives energy to the electrons such as a generator or a battery, another device that uses the energy such as a lamp or a computer, and the connecting wires for transmission of electricity.

Properties

An electric circuit is defined by certain aspects or properties of electricity. They are as follows-

  1. ELECTRIC CURRENT – It is a property of an electric circuit that refers to the flow of electricity through it. It is the rate of flow of electrons from one atom to another. The wires in an electric circuit are made up of conductors such as copper or aluminum. The free electrons in them move from one atom to the next leading to this phenomenon called electric current. However, the direction of flow of electric current is the reverse of the direction of flow of electrons.

Measurement

The current is determined by the number of electrons passing through a cross-section of a conductor in one second. It is measured in Ampere, amp in short, and its symbol is A. The device used to measure current is known as an Ammeter.

  1. VOLTAGE – Voltage is the electric force required to make electric current flow through a conductor. Just like water that needs pressure to pass through a hose, the current needs a force to flow through a conductor. Voltage is the push that causes electrons to move. This force is supplied by power generators, batteries, fuel cells, etc. Voltage can be measured using a device known as a Voltmeter.

Measurement

Volt is the unit of measurement of voltage, and is represented by the symbol V. One volt means a force that makes a current of one-ampere flow through a conductor with a resistance of one ohm. 

  1. RESISTANCE – When electric current flows through a conductor, electrons move through them. Every material obstructs the flow of electric current through it to some extent. This characteristic of the material is known as its resistance. The longer and thinner the material, the more resistance it would offer. Longer material would mean more distance to be covered by the electrons, hence the additional resistance. The thinner it is, the lesser the surface area for electrons to travel, hence there would be more resistance. The amount of resistance depends on two factors – the type of material (conductor/insulator) and its temperature.

Measurement

The unit of measurement resistance is ohm, and is represented by the symbol . The resistance of one ohm would mean that current of one amp is allowed to flow through the material with a voltage of one volt. The device that is used to measure resistance is known as an Ohmmeter.

  1. ELECTRIC POWER – Electric power is produced by electric generators, but can also be supplied by sources like batteries. Voltage and Current together provide us electrical power. The bigger the voltage and current, the more is the electrical power generated. It is measured in watts, represented by the symbol W.

 

Thus, electricity is the flow of electrons through a conductor. The amount of current (amps) is related to the voltage (volts) pushing the electrons and the degree of resistance to flow (ohms).

              Movement of electrons in a conductor

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Effects of Electricity

When an electric current flows through a conductor, it exhibits a number of effects around. It produces by-products like heat, light, some magnetic effects, and some chemical changes, depending upon the conducting material. When utilized well, they can be an asset and human beings have done a wonderful job in doing so.

 

However, fossil fuels like coal and natural gas take millions of years to form. The rate at which we are consuming electricity is much more than the rate at which the natural resources are being generated on earth. Thus, we must save electricity and switch to cleaner and renewable sources of energy.

Check Point

  1. An ___________ is a fundamental piece of matter.
  2. The ________ orbit around the positively charged nucleus in an atom.
  3. The rate of flow of electrons from one atom to another is known as _____________. It is measured in ____________.
  4. The obstruction that a material offers to the flow of electric current is known as ________.
  5. The unit of voltage is __________ and its symbol is ______.
  6. The direction of flow of ________ is the reverse of the direction of flow of electrons through the conductor.

Answer Key

  1.  Atom
  2. Electron
  3. Electric current, Ampere    
  4. Resistance   
  5. Volt, V     
  6. Electric current

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