[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”perspective-center” width=”98%” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#131753″ ]As promised; this week starts the beginning of our weekly energy education program. Hopefully it will help those who have little experience in testing methods, basic physics, and methods of measurement. I will leave commenting open on this series to allow questions from those interested and to allow experts to both answer those questions and add more detail. We believe that this will help reduce the failure rate of experimenters who have good intentions but just made a mistake in measurements. We also believe this will help people better understand claims and be able to run the calculations themselves and better understand the claims. (Disclaimer: As always, you should have safety in mind when exposing yourself to hazardous conditions. We will provide safety tips whenever we get the chance but are not liable for your safety. Safety is paramount and YOU are your best protection. Be safe and educate yourself on the proper methods of protecting yourself around electricity or any other hazardous environment.)
Week One – Basic Electronics Principles
Now if I had the time to write all this information down from scratch, I would have the title of Professor. But seeing how I have a full time job and am in college part time, I will be referencing a lot of these principles from various trusted and free online sources. I’ll be adding links to these sources for those who wish to read further in depth. This will also help avoid mistakes and keep it simple. Keep in mind, If you have any questions or would like to add to the material in this series; feel free to add it below in the comments section. Now lets begin…..
Energy exists in many forms and states. Your physical body in it’s most basic state is a form of energy. But for starters, this week we will be focusing on Electricity.
“Electricity figures everywhere in our lives. Electricity lights up our homes, cooks our food, powers our computers, television sets, and other electronic devices. Electricity from batteries keeps our cars running and makes our flashlights shine in the dark.
Here’s something you can do to see the importance of electricity. Take a walk through your school, house or apartment and write down all the different appliances, devices and machines that use electricity. You’ll be amazed at how many things we use each and every day that depend on electricity.
But what is electricity? Where does it come from? How does it work? Before we understand all that, we need to know a little bit about atoms and their structure.
All matter is made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of smaller particles. The three main particles making up an atom are the proton, the neutron and the electron.
Electrons spin around the center, or nucleus, of atoms, in the same way the moon spins around the earth. The nucleus is made up of neutrons and protons.
Electrons contain a negative charge, protons a positive charge. Neutrons are neutral – they have neither a positive nor a negative charge.
There are many different kinds of atoms, one for each type of element. An atom is a single part that makes up an element. There are 118 different known elements that make up every thing! Some elements like oxygen we breathe are essential to life.
Each atom has a specific number of electrons, protons and neutrons. But no matter how many particles an atom has, the number of electrons usually needs to be the same as the number of protons. If the numbers are the same, the atom is called balanced, and it is very stable.
So, if an atom had six protons, it should also have six electrons. The element with six protons and six electrons is called carbon. Carbon is found in abundance in the sun, stars, comets, atmospheres of most planets, and the food we eat. Coal is made of carbon; so are diamonds.
Some kinds of atoms have loosely attached electrons. An atom that loses electrons has more protons than electrons and is positively charged. An atom that gains electrons has more negative particles and is negatively charge. A “charged” atom is called an “ion.”
Electrons can be made to move from one atom to another. When those electrons move between the atoms, a current of electricity is created. The electrons move from one atom to another in a “flow.” One electron is attached and another electron is lost.
This chain is similar to the fire fighter’s bucket brigades in olden times. But instead of passing one bucket from the start of the line of people to the other end, each person would have a bucket of water to pour from one bucket to another. The result was a lot of spilled water and not enough water to douse the fire. It is a situation that’s very similar to electricity passing along a wire and a circuit. The charge is passed from atom to atom when electricity is “passed.”
Scientists and engineers have learned many ways to move electrons off of atoms. That means that when you add up the electrons and protons, you would wind up with one more proton instead of being balanced.
Since all atoms want to be balanced, the atom that has been “unbalanced” will look for a free electron to fill the place of the missing one. We say that this unbalanced atom has a “positive charge” (+) because it has too many protons.
Since it got kicked off, the free electron moves around waiting for an unbalanced atom to give it a home. The free electron charge is negative, and has no proton to balance it out, so we say that it has a “negative charge” (-).
So what do positive and negative charges have to do with electricity?
Scientists and engineers have found several ways to create large numbers of positive atoms and free negative electrons. Since positive atoms want negative electrons so they can be balanced, they have a strong attraction for the electrons. The electrons also want to be part of a balanced atom, so they have a strong attraction to the positive atoms. So, the positive attracts the negative to balance out.
The more positive atoms or negative electrons you have, the stronger the attraction for the other. Since we have both positive and negative charged groups attracted to each other, we call the total attraction “charge.”
Energy also can be measured in joules. Joules sounds exactly like the word jewels, as in diamonds and emeralds. A thousand joules is equal to a British thermal unit.
When electrons move among the atoms of matter, a current of electricity is created. This is what happens in a piece of wire. The electrons are passed from atom to atom, creating an electrical current from one end to other, just like in the picture.
Electricity is conducted through some things better than others do. Its resistance measures how well something conducts electricity. Some things hold their electrons very tightly. Electrons do not move through them very well. These things are called insulators. Rubber, plastic, cloth, glass and dry air are good insulators and have very high resistance.
Other materials have some loosely held electrons, which move through them very easily. These are called conductors. Most metals – like copper, aluminum or steel – are good conductors.” Read More
Now that we’ve touched a little on what electricity is. lets move on to how electricity is measured and in what forms it is used. We will start with a few key terms such as Volts, Amps, and Watts.
Amperage, The Current Killer.
Out of all the units of measurement for electricity, amps or amperage expresses the most concern in terms of safety. One Ampere in it’s technical definition, is a measure of the amount of electric charge passing a point in an electric circuit per unit of time, with 6.241×1018 electrons per second. In a more basic definition, if electricity flow was depicted as a river, then amperage would be the flow rate of that water in the river. (example: 3000 gallons per minute).
Voltage, That Tickled.
Voltage is the second key component to measuring electrical power. While most definitions refer to Voltage as electrical potential, I like to refer to voltage as electrical pressure. It just helps me picture it. For example, you can have a large body of water sitting in one spot but not have any potential to move from point A to point B. If you were to move that body of water up hill and store it behind a dam, then you would have a potential for that water, when released, to flow from point A (lake) to Point B (valley below). Voltage would be the pressure or potential behind the volume when it’s released. When charging a battery to twelve volts or it’s capacity, it’s similar to filling the lake to it’s maximum capacity or charging your air compressor to it’s max pressure.
Watts, Volts x Amps.
In conclusion, you can see now why in order to measure the total flow of electrons (electricity), you will need to take into account both Volts and Amps. The equation is simple enough; just multiply the measured voltage by the measured amperage and your result will be Watts. Therefore the definition of a Watt is in terms of electromagnetism, the rate at which work is done when one ampere (A) of current flows through an electrical potential difference of one volt (V).
If you followed this so far, you can start to see why the common practice of just mentioning volts in an experimental claim has little value compared to showing the Watts in/Watts out. To calculate the efficiency of an electrical device, one must first calculate the wattage going in and the wattage going out. Until the output “Wattage” is greater than the input Wattage, then there is no overunity (hint, hint, hint). There are other units of measurement that electrical energy can be expressed in but we will cover those in a later article.
In the next article we will go over the instruments used to measure Volts, Amps, and Watts. We will also dive into the different types of current and how to calculate power when frequency is involved.