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Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 1:20 EDT

What is Electricity

October 18, 2012

Hi, I’m Emerald Robinson. In this “What Is” video we’re going to take a closer look at electricity.

Electricity is a natural force that we’ve harnessed for our energy needs. To understand electricity, we need to know a little about atoms, the tiny particles that make up our universe. Three smaller particles make up atoms: neutrons, electrons and protons. Electrons have a negative charge, protons have a positive charge, and neutrons are neutral. The center of the atom includes neutrons and protons, while the electrons orbit the center like the earth orbits the sun.

Stable atoms have an equal number of protons and electrons, and have no charge. If a material holds on to its electrons tightly, it is known as an insulator. If its electrons are more loosely bound, it’s called a conductor. When a large number of free electrons “pile up” at one end of a conductor, particles that have the same charge repel each other, while particles that have opposite charges attract. These negative electrons push each other apart, jumping from atom to atom through the conductor…  creating electricity.

There are two forms of electricity – current and static. Current electricity travels. It is composed of flowing electrons passing from one atom to another through a conductive material. It’s this form of electricity that powers our homes.

Static electricity is a charge at rest on an object. Sometimes your body picks up extra electrons through friction and becomes negatively charged. When you touch a conductor, like a metal door knob, you experience a small shock as this static charge jumps from your body to the door knob.

Electricity is a secondary energy source, meaning we have to convert energy from another source into electric power. Sources of electricity include burning natural gas and coal, nuclear power, and natural sources of power, such as wind, water, and solar energy.

And that’s the shocking truth about electricity.