|Topics||Battery Configurations, Capacitors, Electrons, Insulators, Open & Closed Circuits, Resistance, Resistors, Series-Parallel Circuits, Transformers|
Batteries can be connected together in various combinations to increase their total voltage and/or total current. Connecting batteries in series combines their voltage while keeping their current the same, connecting batteries in parallel combines their current while keeping their voltage the same, and using a series-parallel configuration, half the batteries can be connected in series and half in parallel to combine both voltage and current.
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.
All electricity is the movement of electrons which are subatomic particles that orbit the nucleus of an atom. Electrons occupy various energy levels called shells and how well an element enables the flow of electrons depends on how many electrons occupy its outer (valence) electron shell.
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.
Resistance is opposition to the flow of current and is measured in ohms (Ω). One ohm is defined as the amount of resistance that will allow one ampere of current to flow if one volt of voltage is applied. As resistance increases, current decreases as resistance and current are inversely proportional.
Resistors are used to limit voltage and/or current in a circuit and can have a fixed or variable resistance. Variable resistors (often called potentiometers or rheostats) are used when dynamic control over the voltage/current in a circuit is needed, for example, in a light dimmer or volume control.
Circuits are not limited to only series or only parallel configurations. Most circuits contain a mix of series and parallel segments. A good example is a household circuit breaker. Electrical outlets in each section of the house are wired in parallel with the circuit breaker for that section wired in series making it easy to cut off electricity to the parallel parts of the circuit when needed.
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.