Imagine, a world without electricity! Take a few seconds and think about it. Think about no computers or TVs, no stove or refrigerator, no car, no lights, no telephones or hair driers, no CD players or video games, no vending machines or clocks, no x-ray machines, etc. etc. Imagine just how different your life would be. We are very dependent on this thing we call electricity. We are dependent on something that has NO WEIGHT, NO COLOUR, NO SMELL and NO SIZE. Let’s try to find out a little about what it is or isn’t.
We know that matter has mass and therefore must take up space. Atoms are the building blocks of matter just like cells are the building blocks of living things. All matter is made of atoms. Now, atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Inside the atom is a nucleus and inside the nucleus you will find the protons and neutrons. Around the nucleus are the electrons. They sort of orbit the nucleus. Protons have a positive charge ( + ), neutrons have no charge - they are neutral and electrons have a negative charge ( ). There are the same number of electrons and protons so the atom is evenly balanced and has no charge.
Have you ever heard of the saying 'Opposites attract'? Well, the electrons, which are negative, are attracted to the protons which are positive. Opposite charges attract and like charges repel. In other words, the electrons do not want to be beside other electrons or protons beside other protons. We are almost there; just one more thing.
Some kinds of atoms have electrons but they are attached loosely. If an atom loses electrons it will have more protons so it will be positively charged. Electrons move easier than atoms so, the electrons (negatively charged) move towards the positively charged atom. When those electrons move towards the atom, a current of electricity is created. This flow of electrons is what we call electricity.
Just a reminder - All matter is made up of atoms! When the electrons are moving among the atoms which make up the matter (example-a wire), a current of electricity is created. In a piece of wire, the electrons are passed from atom to atom. An electrical current is being created as the electrons are passed from atom to atom. This continues down the length of the wire.
WHAT IS IT?
INSULATORS and CONDUCTORS
Electrons flow better in some things and have a poor movement through others. This means that electricity flows through some things better than others. Some times the electrons are being held very tightly and have trouble moving through the matter. If the electrons do not move through them very well, they are called things are called insulators. Glass, plastic, rubber, plastic and cloth are good insulators. Non-metals are usually good insulators
Other materials have some electrons that are loosely held. These electrons move through the material very easily. These are called conductors. Good conductors would be your metals such as copper, steel and aluminum. Water is also a very good conductor of electricity.
Other materials that are able to conduct electricity but not as good conductorsa are called semiconductors. Also, you should realize that at certain voltages and temperatures all material will conduct electricity. Air, which is an excellent insultor is also a good conductor if the voltage is high enough. Lightening is a good example showing this.
Electrical Wire - has positive atoms so negative electrons pass quickly through resulting in an electrical current.