How does electricity actually power things?

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How does electricity actually power things?

In: Technology
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Good question. There are a bunch of scientists at CERN finding the answer. Although scientists and engineers don’t know why electromagnetic forces can pull and push a massive magnet, we do know that those forces can be used to move a magnet.

A moving election has a magnetic field. When you coil wires, the magnetic fields combine to form an electronic magnet which can be turned on and off quickly. Placed in proximity with normal magnets, the e.magnet either repells or attracts, causing movement. By changing the current on or off an electric motor is born. I’m not an engineer, but this explanation is close.

Ok his answer is better.

This depends on what things we’re talking about as we use electricity in lots of different ways. I’ll split this up into three cases, but there are many others.

Lots of simple devices will run electricity through them to produce light or heat. There is something called Ohms law that tells us Voltage = Resistance x Current, and another law that tells us that Power = Voltage x Current. So if we take voltage from the wall (230V in the UK, 110V in the US) and run it through a wire with a small resistance then a lot of power is used. This power can’t just disappear, so we see it as heat. We can use this to cook food, or to produce light.

We also want to use electricity to create movement with motors. A cool thing about electricity is that it creates magnetic fields when it flows. We’ve figured out that if we bundle wires together in the right way, it will cause a spinning magnetic field to appear. If we put a magnet in this field then the magnet will spin. This is basically how a motor works, and so we’ve created movement from electricity!

The final case I’ll talk about is how we can power things like computers with electricity. First the power from the wall goes through a box called a power supply. This turns the high voltage electricity from the wall into smaller voltages that are more useful for a computer. We supply these smaller voltages to things like chips that can further control how it flows using things called transistors. Explaining how transistors (and computers) work is a whole other ELI5 question! But they’re able to manipulate the electricity to do calculations and run programs.