|Topics||Alternating Current (AC), Capacitors, Inductors, Insulators, Open & Closed Circuits, Power, Transformers, Transistors|
In contrast to the constant one-way flow of direct current, alternating current changes direction many times each second. Electricity is delivered from power stations to customers as AC because it provides a more efficient way to transport electricity over long distances.
Capacitors store electricity and are used in circuits as temporary batteries. Capacitors are charged by DC current (AC current passes through a capacitor) and that stored charge can later be dissipated into the circuit as needed. Capacitors are often used to maintain power within a system when it is disconnected from its primary power source or to smooth out or filter voltage within a circuit.
An inductor is coiled wire that stores electric energy in the form of magnetic energy and resists changes in the electric current flowing through it. If current is increasing, the inductor produces a voltage that slows the increase and, if current is decreasing, the magnetic energy in the coil opposes the decrease to keep the current flowing longer. In contrast to capacitors, inductors allow DC to pass easily but resist the flow of AC.
Insulators have valence shells that are more than half full of electrons and, as such, are tightly bound to the nucleus and difficult to move from one atom to another.
A closed circuit is a complete loop or path that electricity follows. It consists of a source of voltage, a load, and connective conductors. If the circuit is interrupted, if a wire is disconnected or cut for example, it becomes an open circuit and no electricity will flow.
Electrical power is measured in watts (W) and is calculated by multiplying the voltage (V) applied to a circuit by the resulting current (I) that flows in the circuit: P = IV. In addition to measuring production capacity, power also measures the rate of energy consumption and many loads are rated for their consumption capacity. For example, a 60W lightbulb utilizes 60W of energy to produce the equivalent of 60W of heat and light energy.
A transformer utilizes an inductor to increase or decrease the voltage in a circuit. AC flowing in a coil wrapped around an iron core magnetizes the core causing it to produce a magnetic field. This magnetic field generates a voltage in a nearby coil of wire and, depending on the number of turns in the wire of the primary (source) and secondary coils and their proximity, voltage is induced in the secondary coil.
The transistor is the foundation of modern electronic devices. It is made entirely from semiconductor material (making it a solid state device) and can serve many different functions in a circuit including acting as a switch, amplifier, or current regulator. A transistor works by allowing a small amount of current applied at the base to control general current flow from collector to emitter through the transistor.