electricity 372 TESLA-Institute



Some elemental types of atoms are better than others at releasing their electrons. To get the best possible electron flow we want to use atoms which don’t hold very tightly to their valence electrons. An element’s conductivity measures how tightly bound an electron is to an atom.

Elements with high conductivity, which have very mobile electrons, are called conductors. These are the types of materials we want to use to make wires and other components which aid in electron flow. Metals like copper, silver, and gold are usually our top choices for good conductors.

Elements with low conductivity are called insulators. Insulators serve a very important purpose: they prevent the flow of electrons. Popular insulators include glass, rubber, plastic, and air.



Static or Current Electricity

Before we get much further, let’s discuss the two forms electricity can take: static or current. In working with electronics, current electricity will be much more common, but static electricity is important to understand as well.

Static Electricity

Static electricity exists when there is a build-up of opposite charges on objects separated by an insulator. Static (as in “at rest”) electricity exists until the two groups of opposite charges can find a path between each other to balance the system out.

 insulator TESLA-Institute

When the charges do find a means of equalizing, a static discharge occurs. The attraction of the charges becomes so great that they can flow through even the best of insulators (air, glass, plastic, rubber, etc.). Static discharges can be harmful depending on what medium the charges travel through and to what surfaces the charges are transferring. Charges equalizing through an air gap can result in a visible shock as the traveling electrons collide with electrons in the air, which become excited and release energy in the form of light.

 electric spark TESLA-Institute

Spark gap igniters are used to create a controlled static discharge. Opposite charges build up on each of the conductors until their attraction is so great charges can flow through the air.

One of the most dramatic examples of static discharge is lightning. When a cloud system gathers enough charge relative to either another group of clouds or the earth’s ground, the charges will try to equalize. As the cloud discharges, massive quantities of positive (or sometimes negative) charges run through the air from ground to cloud causing the visible effect we’re all familiar with.



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