Electricity is a widely used source of the energy. Which we use all the time to power our homes, schools, offices and industries etc. Today almost every common household appliances use electricity as a power source. So, how this electricity is made and supplied to your homes? Let’s see a basic principle of electromagnetism to understand the production of electricity.


Principle of Electromagnetism

nail-electromagnetFrom a basic science experiment, we know that when a wire is wrapped around a nail and its terminals are connected to a battery, it becomes a magnet that is known as the electromagnet. It can attract other things that are made of iron or nickel (see how to make simple electromagnet). The opposite is also true when a bar magnet is moved back and forth inside a circular wound wire or a coil, it will produce electric current in that coil that can power a small bulb. This phenomenon of producing electric current with a magnetic is known as “electromagnetic induction”. It was observed by Michael Faraday in 1800s when he experimented by moving a bar magnet inside a coil.

Generating Electricity

Electricity is made using the same principle as described by Michael Faraday. This principle is put on a device known as “Electric generator” to produce electricity. A generator is simply a set of coils around which magnets move to produce the electricity. Moving the magnets need an external force to move around the coils and keep generating electricity. This external force is obtained from other energy sources, but mostly by burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum etc.). Burning the fossil fuel produces the heat, which is used to boil the water to make high pressurized steam. Then, high pressurized steam is used to rotate the fan of a turbine (A machine that converts the energy of moving fluid into rotational energy). Turbine is combined with magnets, which are connected with the fan along with a shaft. So, when the fan starts to rotate, magnets also rotate around the coils, and the electricity is produced.

Steam turbine power plant diagram

The first power plant to generate electricity was opened in 1882, in New York City by Thomas Edison to supply electricity. Today very large generators are used to generate electricity at power plants, which are located miles away. These generators are controlled by computers, but they operate on the same principle given by Michael Faraday.

Modern Electric Generator

Problems with fossil fuels

There many problems associated with the burning of fossil fuel. The main problem with burning fossil fuel is that they produce a lot of pollution and highly contribute to the global warming (an effect that raises the average temperature of the Earth every year, causing the climate to change). Fossil fuels are not unlimited, only limited resources of fossil fuels are available here on Earth. which are decreasing very fast, as the demand of their consumption is increasing.

Power plants are polluting the atmosphere

The Solution

There are also other energy sources available to make electricity other than burning the fossil fuel. These energy sources are called renewable energy sources. They produce less or no pollution at all and don’t play part in the global warming. Some examples are solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy and hydel energy. Many countries are already producing a significant percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources.

Electricity has really transformed our way of living. We are doing almost every work with the power of electricity. But, as we know, a large percentage of electricity that reaches you is made by burning fossil fuels. So, electricity must not be wasted uselessly. If you are saving electricity means you are less contributing to the global warming.

Solar Energy
Wind Energy
Geothermal Energy – Click the image to enlarge
Hydel Energy – Click the image to enlarge

simple-electromagnetAn Electromagnet is the kind of magnet, which uses electric current to create a magnetic field. It can attract and magnetize ferromagnetic materials like Iron, Nickel, and Cobalt. It is easy to make a simple electromagnet at your home from household materials.

Things You Will Need

  • Thin Plastic insulated wire
  • 5 volt AA Battery
  • Iron Nail

How to Make

  1. Wrap 20 turns of insulated wire on an iron nail tightly
  2. Trim about an inch of plastic coating from both ends of the wire.
  3. Connect one end of the wire with the positive terminal of the battery, and other with negative terminal. Use the electric wire tape if necessary.
  4. Get some paper clips and bring your electromagnet near them. You will see the paper clips will be attracted towards your electromagnet.

Disconnect wires from the battery, if wire or battery gets hot.

How it Works

When you connect the wires to the battery, an electric current flows in the wires. This electric current produces the magnetic field around the wire. The iron nail acts as a magnetic core. Magnetic cores are used to enhance the magnetic field.

Try It

  • Try to use two 1.5 volts AA batteries, and connect them in series. Then, connect the wires to this battery and observe the effects. Find out, does it affects the strength of the electromagnet
  • Use thicker wire instead of thin wire, and wrap around the iron nail. Then, observe the strength of an electromagnet
  • Use thick iron nail or bolt. Then, observe does it affect the strength of an electromagnet.

Try above methods, and note down your result. In the end, you will find which method is affecting the strength of electromagnet most.