Term Paper: Various Methods of Electricity

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¶ … Electricity:

A form of energy which involves the flow of electrons is known as electricity. Electricity is one of the most widely used forms of energy and has become a basic part of nature. As a secondary energy source, electricity is produced from the conversion of other sources of energy such as coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear power (Bellis par, 2). Prior to electricity generation, houses were lit with kerosene lamps, rooms were warmed by wood and coal burning and food was cooled in iceboxes. The invention of the electric light bulbs in mid-1800's changed the life of everyone. This invention used electricity to bring indoor lighting to homes as compared to electricity being used in arc lights for outdoor lighting.

According to Beaty, "… "Electricity" has several contradictory meanings. These different meanings are incompatible, and the contradictions confuse everyone. If you don't understand electricity, you are not alone!" (par, 1). Grasping the concept of electricity has been hard for teachers, engineers and scientists. The word "electricity" has been defined in a crazy way because it lacks one distinct meaning. Though electricity cannot be several things at the same time, we can never pin down its nature. Beaty therefore concludes that there is no such stuff as "electricity" at all because the question on what is electricity is impossible to answer. However, there are five common meanings of the word Electricity.

Scientists define electricity as the electrons and protons i.e. The electric charge. In every day's definition, electricity means the electromagnetic field energy sent out by batteries and generators. The grade-school defines electricity as the flowing motion of electric charge. Electricity can also mean the amount of imbalance between quantities of electrons and protons or the classes of phenomena involving electric charges.

Electricity is therefore both matter and energy. All matter consists of atoms, which have a center known as nucleus. The nucleus is made up of positively charged particles (protons) and uncharged particles (neutrons). The nucleus is usually surrounded by negatively charged particles (electrons). The negative charge of an electron is equivalent to the positive charge of a proton. As a result of this, the number of electrons in an atom is always equal to the number of protons. An electric current occurs when there is a free movement of "lost" electrons from an atom. This movement is upset by an external factor. Through the upset, an atom may gain or lose an electron.

According to Wikipedia web site, the word "electricity" is from the New Latin word "electricus" which means "amber-like." This is a general term which includes various phenomena coming from the existence and surge of electric charge (par, 1). This not only includes recognizable phenomena like lightning and static electricity but also less familiar concepts such as the electromagnetic field and electromagnetic induction. Generally, the word "electricity" refers to a number of physical effects. Due to its extraordinary versatility as a source of energy, electricity can be put in various applications such as transport, lighting, heating, computation and communications. The use of electric power is therefore the backbone of modern industrial society.

Before any knowledge of electricity existed, people were aware of shocks from electric fish commonly known as the "Thunderer of the Nile." In fact, the sick were at times advised to touch the electric fish in the hope that its powerful jolt might cure them. Arabs were credited with the earliest and closest approach to the discovery of lightning and electricity from any other source. This is because they had an Arabic word for lightning "raad" applied to the electric ray before the 15th century.

In 1600, English physician, William Gilbert, made a careful study of electricity and magnetism. In his study, he distinguished the lodestone effect from static electricity produced by rubbing amber. Gilbert coined the New Latin word "electricus" from the Greek word for amber to mean the property of attracting small objects. This led to the rise of English words "electric" and "electricity." In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin performed extensive research in electricity. He even went to the extent of selling his possessions to fund his research work. In June 1752, Franklin attached a metal key to the bottom of a dampened kite in a storm-threatened sky. It was proven that lightning was electrical in nature by a succession of sparks jumping from the key to the back of the hand.

Luigi Galvani demonstrated that electricity was the medium by which nerve cells passed signals to the muscles through his discovery of bioelectricity in 1791. Rapid progress in the electrical science was in the early 19th century but the greatest progress in electrical engineering was in the late 19th century. Electricity was later turned from a scientific curiosity into an essential tool for modern life through various people such as Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Charles Parsons among others. Electricity has now become a driving force for the Second Industrial Revolution.

Various Methods of Electricity Production:

Modern societies demand large amounts of steady power and as a result, the large power plants have been established. These power plants produce electricity via a machine called a generator. A generator has two important parts i.e. The rotating rotor and the stationary stator. Large AC generators, which use the principle of electro-magnetic induction, have an outer shell with powerful magnet rotating around a stationary "armature" which is wound with heavy wire. As these magnets move, they induce an electric current in the wire. Different power generating plants harness different energy sources to make electric power ("Generating Electrons" par, 3).

Electrical energy, one of the man's greatest discoveries, has helped build new civilizations. A large amount of produced electricity has its source in nuclear fission, fossil fuels, bio-waste, water and wind. Electricity is churned out by enormous turbines, which has certain ways of being moved that include:

Burning fossil fuels:

When the bladders of a turbine are moved by enormous amounts of vapor, electricity is generated. The vapor is produced by heating a lot of water in huge furnaces. Burning fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and petroleum heats the water. Enormous amounts of carbon dioxide are released in the air through this method. However, alternate methods of electricity production should for long-term benefits should be embraced because this method pollutes the atmosphere due to the large amounts of carbon dioxide released in the air.

Electricity produced as a result of burning coal is known as coal-fired power. In mid-1990's, coal burning constituted about 55% of the electricity generated in the United States. Coal power is a rather simple process, which involves the crushing of chunks of coal into fine powder and feeding them into a combustion unit where it is burned. Heat coming form the burning coal is used to produce steam that is used in spinning one or more turbines to generate electricity ("Coal Fired Power Generation" par, 1).

This method of coal-fired power has its own advantages which include improved thermal efficiency, higher combustion temperature and a lower requirement for excess air for combustion. Unlike mid-1990's, the development of coal burning has brought serious environmental hazards such as severe erosion which results in the leaching of toxic chemicals into streams and aquifers, and destroys habitants. It also results in emission of fine particles matter into the atmosphere. Some of the particles cause respiratory diseases, exacerbate asthma and reduces lung function.


Production of electricity is also through the construction of dams, a popular method of generation of electricity. Water dams serve two major purposes i.e. restricting water bodies and generating electricity. These dams use river water to move the turbines thus producing electricity. This method of electricity production helps control air pollution though the ecosystem in the water bodies is adversely affected. Water accounts for the highest percentage (90%) of the world's electricity produced through renewable resource thus making this the most popular method.

Electricity produced through this method is commonly known as "hydroelectricity" or "hydroelectric power." Hydroelectric power plants work like the coal-fired power plants. The power source is used to turn a turbine (propeller-like piece) which then turns a metal shaft in an electric generator, the motor that produces electricity. While coal-fired power plants use steam to turn the turbine blades, hydroelectric power plants se falling water to turn the turbine (Perlman par, 1).

The dam in hydroelectric power plants usually stores lots of water behind it n the reservoir. The water intake is near the bottom of the dam wall. Water is caused to fall through the penstock inside the dam by gravity. The turbine propeller is located at the end of the penstock and turned by the moving water. Due to this, the shaft from the turbine goes into the generator, which generates the power. Electricity is carried to homes through the power lines connected to the generator. Energy flowing water is converted into mechanical energy by a hydraulic turbine. This mechanical energy is converted into electricity by a hydroelectric generator.

Nuclear fission:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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