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Electricity Basics

Electricity is a fundamental part of each and every day for most people in the world - it’s how we power our phones, computers, homes, and businesses. Without electricity, the world would look so different. That’s why it’s important for everyone to have a fundamental understanding of how electricity operates. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of electricity, including basic electrical knowledge and terms.

First, we’ll start with some basic physics information that make up the foundation of electricity:

  • Electricity - a form of energy resulting from the existence of charged particles (such as electrons or protons), either statically as an accumulation of charge or dynamically as a current.

  • Electrons - subatomic particles with a negative charge that can flow through any material

  • Charge - the physical property of subatomic particles. Negative charge is carried by electrons. Positive charge is carried by protons

Since electricity is the movement of electrons (regarding how we use it), let’s look at some basic electrical terms that explain that movement further:

  • Current - the flow of electrons. This is measured in AMPS

  • AMPS - the amount of electrons flowing in a current

  • Volts - the force required to push electrons through resistance

  • Watts - the power that results from the work an electron does to push through resistance

  • Resistance - how easily electrons flow through a material

  • Ohms - the unit used to measure the resistance of a material. This slows the flow of electrons

  • Conductors - types of matter that electrons flow through easily with low resistance

  • Semiconductors - types of matter that electrons can flow through under certain circumstances

  • Insulators - types of matter that electrons flow through with great difficulty and high resistance

Next, there are more aspects of electricity for when some of these components are combined. This includes different types of currents that factor into how electricity works in electronics and power grids that supply energy to homes and businesses:


  • Wires - power cables made up of one or more conductors. Currents of electrons flow through them or through a mass flow back and forth to transmit electrical power

  • AC Current - AC stands for alternating current. This is because the current (flow) of electrons alternates in a mass flow of electrons back and forth in comparison to a DC current. AC is  used mostly in homes and businesses

  • DC Current - DC stands for direct current. Direct current (DC) is one-directional flow of electric charge. An electrochemical cell (Battery) is a prime example of DC power. 

  • Batteries - a source of stored electrical power used to power other devices. Batteries only generate DC power currents

  • Transformers - device that transfers electric energy from one alternating-current circuit to one or more other circuits, either increasing (stepping up) or reducing (stepping down) the voltage. Transformers are employed for widely varying purposes; e.g., to reduce the voltage of conventional power circuits to operate low-voltage devices, such as doorbells and toy electric trains, and to raise the voltage from electric generators so that electric power can be transmitted over long distances. Transformers change voltage through electromagnetic induction; i.e., as the magnetic lines of force (flux lines) build up and collapse with the changes in current passing through the primary coil, current is induced in another coil, called the secondary. The secondary voltage is calculated by multiplying the primary voltage by the ratio of the number of turns in the secondary coil to the number of turns in the primary coil, a quantity called the turns ratio.

  • Circuit - a path for transmitting electric current. A circuit includes a source to provide energy (like the utility company, a battery or generator), a device to use the current (such as a TV or computer), and connecting wires/transmission lines to transmit the current

All of these aspects of electricity are involved in things like harnessing solar energy and making utility power grids work. Combined, all of these components of electricity help keep the world moving and can be used to accomplish great things!

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