|Topics||Alternating Current (AC), Capacitors, Electrons, Fuses, Parallel Circuit, Power, Resistors, Series Circuit, 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.
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.
Fuses are thin wires that melt when the current in a circuit exceeds a preset amount. They help prevent short circuits from damaging circuit components when an unusually large current is applied to the circuit, either through component failure or spikes in applied voltage.
In a parallel circuit, each load occupies a separate parallel path in the circuit and the input voltage is fully applied to each path. Unlike a series circuit where current (I) is the same at all points in the circuit, in a parallel circuit, voltage (V) is the same across each parallel branch of the circuit but current differs in each branch depending on the load (resistance) present.
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.
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.
A series circuit has only one path for current to flow. In a series circuit, current (I) is the same throughout the circuit and is equal to the total voltage (V) applied to the circuit divided by the total resistance (R) of the loads in the circuit. The sum of the voltage drops across each resistor in the circuit will equal the total voltage applied to the circuit.
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.