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How Electricity Works

SCIENCE

Created by: Carla Madrid, Priscilla Delvalle, and Magdalena Grzemska

We will demonstrate how electricity works and how it is used by household items!

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Let’s begin with some explanation starting at the level of atoms. Electricity is called so because of electrons. Atoms make up all of the surrounding matter and even air. They are built of a nucleus which is positively charged and surrounding it with negatively charged electrons. 

It’s important to remember that opposite charges attract each other leading to neutralization, so the negative electron flows away from – and towards the +. Charge is created when an atom has a difference in the number of negative electrons and positive protons

Do you know what is inside of the wire? 

It’s made of conductors like metals and insulators like plastic and rubber. 

 

Can you guess which one is on the inside or which one outside?

Metals have a lot of electrons which can travel across and carry the current, while insulators have very little free electrons, that’s why the electrons can’t reach our fingers when we hold the wire!

 

Plastic is also resistant to heat, which is a side effect of electric flow. 

Example from life: by rubbing a balloon, we arrange the charges on their surface in a way that they will attract each other. 

The people who helped with the process: 

Benjamin Franklin did research that proved that lightning is the same thing as tiny electric sparks. 

Alexandro Volta invented the first battery and constructed circuits with direct current (DC). 

Michael Faraday discovered that electric current induced a magnetic field around it and vice versa. He is also known for inventing Faraday’s cage, able to block electromagnetic waves and dynamo.

All this led Thomas Edison to invent the first light bulbs.   

Nicola Tesla developed alternating current (AC) which was safer and more efficient. Then, he applied it to the first electric motors which led to many other inventions and popularized the use of electricity. 

Materials

9V battery with wires

LED

Playdoh

Aternative conductor: 

Potatoes

Homemade playdoh protocol

  1. In a saucepan, completely dissolve half a cup of salt in 1 cup of warm water (dissolving the salt first ensures a good texture). Add your favorite food color. Next, add 3 tablespoons cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and 1 cup of plain flour. Stir thoroughly. 
  2. Cook the play dough mixture on low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until a ball forms (it takes just a few minutes). Place the ball and flatten it out on a lightly floured baking tray to cool (again, just a few minutes is enough). 
  3. Knead in more flour until the dough stops feeling sticky and you’re done. Like playdoh from toy stores, this batch will conduct electricity nicely. 

Set-Up

Open Circuit: not a complete circuit

Closed Circuit: straight pathway for electrons 

Short Circuit: the same current flows through all components of the circuit

Parallel Circuit: the same current flows through all components of the circuit

Series Circuit: the same current flows through all components of the circuit

Biology Fun Facts: 

  1. Electricity causes muscle cells in your heart to contract, essentially making it beat. 
  2. The electric eel (a type of kinfe-fish) can deliver a shock of up to 600 volts, for hunting or self-defense. 
  3. You may have watched a gecko climb what looks to be a smooth surface. This ability is due in part to the electrostatic forces on the gecko’s toe pads. The difference in charge between its feet and the surface help it “stick” to the wall. 
  4. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields to image the inside of your body. 
In our lives, we use electricity all the time in the form of electric circuits, where the electricity flows in a continuous loop of conducting material. 
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