Applications of Electricity

Technical uses of Electricity

The word electricity often evokes the danger that can be associated with plugs or electrical equipment. Protecting oneself against this risk is easier the more one knows about processes and laws over the wide spectrum that electricity covers. Such knowledge is essential in view of the wide variety of technical applications for electricity that we nowadays take for granted. Imagine if the power stations were to shut down for a whole day. Electric trains, electric or even oil-fired central heating, refrigerators, lifts, traffic lights and electric lighting would all fail. Hospitals, telephone exchanges and water-supply pumping stations all have to have back-up power supplies for this event. technical-uses-electricity.jpg

For more than a hundred years, applications of electricity for lighting, heating and power have increasingly influenced human life. This ever-increasing importance is being furthered even more in view of the electrical energy needed nowadays for communications and information technology.


Example - Electric locomotives

The example of electric locomotives (pictured right) reveals the vital importance of electricity in our day and age. Not only the propulsion of the locomotive but also the lighting and heating of the train, the brakes and safety equipment and even the cooking in the buffet kitchen are all accomplished using electricity. For trains to run safely on an extensive and complex railway network, a mass of electrical remote control, signalling and radio communications equipment is needed and electricity is also used to operate points and lighting systems etc. electric-locomotives.jpg


Generation and Transmission of Electrical Energy

Most of the electrical energy consumed nowadays comes from generators in power stations. Various primary energy supplies are used as fuel (e.g. coal or gas). Electricity can also be produced from chemical energy in batteries and accumulators. The relatively new technology of photo-voltaics utilises the photo-electric effect by means of solar cells (pictured right) that generate power by converting sunlight into electrical energy. generation-transmission-electrical-energy.jpg


Electrical energy is mostly conveyed as a result of the movement of electrons in solid bodies. To achieve such transmission of energy, cables are manufactured from materials with low specific resisitivity (usually metals). The unavoidable losses that occur in the transmission of electricity can be reduced by employing very high voltages. High-tension electric cables, for example, are operated at voltages in a range between 10 and 380 kV. Since electrical energy is commonly generated in power stations and must be conveyed to loads large distances away, the actual transmission of the electricity has a major influence on the effectiveness of the entire power supply network.  generation-transmission-electrical-energy1.jpg

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