Electricity figures everywhere in our lives. Electricity lights up our homes, cooks our food, powers our computers, television sets, and other electronic devices. Electricity from batteries keeps our cars running and makes our flashlights shine in the dark.
Here's something you can do to see the importance of electricity. Take a walk through your school, house or apartment and write down all the different appliances, devices and machines that use electricity. You'll be amazed at how many things we use each and every day that depend on electricity.
Electricity is conducted through some things better than others do. Its resistance measures how well something conducts electricity. Some things hold their electrons very tightly. Electrons do not move through them very well. These things are called insulators. Rubber, plastic, cloth, glass and dry air are good insulators and have very high resistance.
Other materials have some loosely held electrons, which move through them very easily. These are called conductors. Most metals – like copper, aluminum or steel – are good conductors.
Electricity flow or moves through some things better than others do. The measurement of how well something conducts electricity is called its resistance.
Resistance in wire depends on how thick and how long it is, and what it's made of. The thickness of wire is called its gauge. The smaller the gauge, the bigger the wire. Some of the largest thicknesses of regular wire is gauge 1.
Different types of metal are used in making wire. You can have copper wire, aluminum wire, even steel wire. Each of these metals has a different resistance; how well the metal conducts electricity. The lower the resistance of a wire, the better it conducts electricity.
Copper is used in many wires because it has a lower resistance than many other metals. The wires in your walls, inside your lamps and elsewhere are usually copper
Static electricity can also give you a shock. If you walk across a carpet, shuffling your feet and touching something made of metal, a spark can jump between you and the metal object. Shuffling your feet picks up additional electrons spread over your body. When you touch a metal doorknob or something with a positive charge the electricity jumps across the small gap from your fingers just before you touch the metal knob. If you walk across a carpet and touch a computer case, you can damage the computer.
One other type of static electricity is very spectacular. It's the lightning in a thunder and lightning storm. Clouds become negatively charged as ice crystals inside the clouds rub up against each other. Meanwhile, on the ground, the positive charge increases. The clouds get so highly charged that the electrons jump from the ground to the cloud, or from one cloud to another cloud. This causes a huge spark of static electricity in the sky that we call lightning.