Posted by: tpsciencefun | February 1, 2013

The Story Behind the Switch

You wake up every day and there are yummy cold things to eat in your refrigerator.  How do they stay cold? You turn on the water and it gets hot.  How does your water get hot?  Why does your bread turn into toast? Why does your doorbell ring? I guess by now you are all hollering, electricity, electricity and you are right!!! But, what is electricity and how does it get to your house?  And even more interesting, how does the electricity get converted into heat, cold, motion and sound?

What is electricity?
“Electricity is a form of energy.  Electricity begins with the smallest of all particles, the atom.  Atoms, although too small for our eyes to see, are in everything.  Atoms also contain protons and neutrons in their nucleus (the center of the atom).  Electrons are contained around the protons and neutrons, and move quickly around them.  This quick movement is what makes the energy in electricity.”
 Check these websites out for more information–
We are so used to just turning on the switch (making a closed circuit), and viola…we have light.  But there must be more to the story behind the switch.  Where and how is electric energy made and how does it get from one place to another?  Here’s the story behind that switch–
“Here’s a step-by-step explanation of the process at work to turn raw materials into the power that lights up our homes, heats our schools and brings comfort to our lives.
  1. Trains and trucks deliver coal to power plants. The plants store the coal in huge piles.
  2. Before it can be burned, the coal must be crushed into small piece and sent on a conveyor belt to bins that hold a one- or two-day supply.
  3. The crushed coal goes through a pulverizer, where it gets reduced to a fine powder. Mixed with hot air, the powder is blown through coal burners into the boiler furnace. In the furnace, the mixture is ignited and burned at a high intensity.
  4. Burning produces a heavy ash, which drops into an ash hopper for disposal. It also produces a lightweight ash, called fly ash that is removed by electric precipitators and mechanical dust collectors before the gases discharge through the chimney.
  5. Water flows through thousands of tubes in the boiler furnace. The furnace converts the water to steam, which collects in a steam drum at the top of the boiler. The steam then travels at high pressure through a steam line into the turbines.
  6. The steam expands inside the turbines, pushing against blades attached to a shaft. That shaft then starts to spin. A large electric magnet attached to the other end of the shaft spins inside a coil of heavy copper conductors, generating electricity.
  7. The generated electricity then goes to step-up transformers where the voltage is increased for transmission through cables.”
Now you have read just a chapter in the amazing store of energy generation to energy use at home.  The Energy Story provides 20 Chapters to answer all your electrifying questions, so you don’t have to be in the dark!


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