What is it?

atom1Electricity is the flow of moving electrons. What are electrons? First you need to know what an atom is to understand the job of an electron. An atom is the smallest unit of matter that consists of three parts: protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons and neutrons are located within the nucleus (the heart of the atom). Electrons are parts of an atom that continuously orbit around the outside of the nucleus. Protons have a positive electric charge and neutrons have no electric charge.

Electrons have a negative charge. When this negative charge flows in a complete path, called a circuit, the organized flow of electric charge is called current or electricity. This happens when there is a push to make electrons move (like people standing in line, eager to get on a roller coaster ride). This transformation of energy changes electricity into a form that is useful to us.

Lightning safety posterLightning is static electricity. Negative charges build up in the Earth’s atmosphere when there is a storm. The release of energy as light and sound is lightning. Those negative charges find a pathway to the ground or another object, like the people released from a gate to find their seat on the roller coaster. Static electricity happens to clothes in a dryer or from dress shoes on a carpet on a cold dry day.

There are two types of energy, potential and kinetic. Potential energy is energy waiting to be released, such as a lake or a pool of water. Kinetic energy is energy in motion, such as the water falling or flowing over a dam. Electricity is kinetic energy because electrons move or bump into each other as they flow to a circuit or an electric device.

Conductors and Insulators