How Does Electricity Travel Through Wires?


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Have you ever wondered how electricity can travel through wires? The process is intriguing and Dan Ludois, Professor at the College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, explained the concept in a lucid way.

Inside the wires, there are charges which act on the electric field and can travel through the solid copper wires, in something we know as an electric current. So, what is the electric current (electricity)? It is a movement or the flow of the electrical charge. At home, the electricity conducted through the copper wires has the travelling electrons. Individual electrons travel through the wire slowly and have to work their way through a multitude of atoms in the wire. If electrons travel slowly then how the lights come on instantly when you turn on a switch? Though the electrons move slowly through the wire, the electricity speed is equated to the speed of light. So, we get an extremely fast response.

Now, think of the electric grid. It is a vast mesh (or interconnection) of wires and has several components such as power substations and transformers. The electric grid is a huge network and is designed to cater to the supply of energy power worldwide.

The US power grid is reportedly robust and reliable. It is an assortment of solar, wind, coal, or nuclear power plants, which put all the power into the grid. So, the grid is like a common pool of energy for consumers and functions like a superhighway allowing power to travel around.

What is a voltage? Try and begin with an energy source like coal or natural gas. Next, is to use the source and make steam. The steam spins and turns turbines and the spinning object has magnets attached to it. It was Faraday’s Law that brought to light that you can make voltage when a spinning magnet is brought near a coil of wire.

So, the voltage can help to move the electrons through the solid copper wires. These electrons further move to their respective destinations.

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