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Home > Home Wiring USA > Definitions and Calculations > Electron Theory (NEC 2002)

Electron Theory (NEC 2002)

By Warren Goodrich

This is my attempt to put in laymen's terms the makeup and creation of electricity, then handling this product in a way that we can use this product (electricity) in a manner called work. Please give me the latitude to be speaking in general terms. Therefore the subject may not be precise in accuracy. The purpose of this document is to give you an idea of what makes electricity, and how we use what we make.

Approximation of the Electron Theory

The birth of electricity comes from what we call an atom or atoms and its interaction with other atoms. The contents of an atom are in three parts, a proton, a neutron, and an electron. The proton is known to be with a positive electrical charge. The neutron is known to be neutral or without an electrical charge. The third particle is called an electron which is known to be with a negative charge. If we were to look at the make up of an atom, we should find that the center of the atom (nucleus) would contain both the proton, and the neutron particles.

The make up of an atom can be related to the solar system in approximation. In the solar system we have a sun, and several planets. The sun is found to be stationary, and the planets tend to revolve around the sun. We might assume that the planets would attract to the sun, and collide with it, due to the gravitational pull of the sun, if they were not held away by some unseen force. By the planets revolving around the sun, we might conclude that the centrifugal force of the movement around the sun keeps our planets from being attracted too much, and pulled into the sun. We can also relate this theory to the atom. The electrons have a negative charge. The Protons have a positive charge. The neutron has no charge, or is neutral. It would be obvious that the neutron would have no affect to either the proton, or the electron elements of an atom. Yet the neutron can add molecular weight to an atom. But like heat is attracted to cold, negatively charged electrons are attracted to the positively charged proton. The positively charged proton, and the neutron which has no charge, are found to be stationary in the center of the atom, called the nucleus. Many negatively charged electrons can revolve randomly around the proton and neutron, at the same time, and in different orbits. We might assume that the negatively charged neutron (energy) would be attracted to the positively charged proton due to the attraction created by the opposite forces. We might also assume like the planets in the solar system, that the electrons do not collide with the proton due to the same centrifugal force found in the solar system's planet movement around the sun.

We previously spoke that a neutrally charged atom has an equal number of protons, and neutrons. In an atom’s normal state it will have an equal number of protons and electrons making this atom to be without an electrical charge. There are approximately 92 natural atoms in existence, not counting man made atoms. A hydrogen atom which is the most simple atom in existence, made by nature, has only one proton and one neutron. Helium has two protons in it’s nucleus. Lithium has three protons in its nucleus. If you were to be able to change enough properties {number of protons and / or neutrons} you would change what that atom group may be. For example, you cold possibly change the molecular makeup enough to change an item from being a metal to not being a metal, or from being a conductor which passes electrons easily, to an insulator which would store electrons.

Non-Conductive versus Conductive Metals

Some types of structures are called non-conductive (some plastics and ceramics), and some are called conductive (metals). An atom with the least amount of free electrons in its outer orbit is called insulators (non-conductive) An atom with many free electrons in its outer orbit are more conductive (conductors). Non-conductive characteristics are the molecular makeup of insulators. Conductive characteristics are the molecular makeup of conductors containing many free electrons in its outer orbit. An example of an atom that allows many free electrons and readily looses or gains it total number of free electrons makes it a good conductor of electrons and would have a conductive property similar to copper. Copper is a very good conductor. One cubic inch of copper would contain approximately 11 X 1023. Just for play let's look at that number.

1,100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 -- WOW !

Obviously copper accepts and releases plenty of free electrons in its outer orbit to pass around without significantly changing its molecular structure, or properties.

The passing and accepting of a free electron creating electricity can be done in several different manners; Chemical energy (battery), Solar energy (Power collected from the sun in solar batteries or collectors), Heat (two dissimilar metals joined at one end then heated) thermocouple, Magnetic, or friction force (Generators) (battery) (Power collected from the sun in solar batteries or collectors) (two dissimilar metals joined at one end then heated) (Generators)

Opposites Attract

In the same manner that heat seeks cold, the same happens when opposites attract {to each other}, and likes repel {from each other} Think of two magnets pulling towards each other {attract}. If you turned one magnet around, they would push away from each other {repel}.

Insight into Protons, Neutrons, and Electrons

Now a proton, or neutron will remain stationary, within its own nucleus, but an electron is continually moving {revolving around it’s nucleus}. If, the electron in an atom’s outer orbit is made to move fast enough around its nucleus, this electron may break free from the outer orbit of that atom and transfer to a different atom. If an electron breaks free of an atom, this electron would greatly increase in power. We would now have a highly negatively charged electron. This free electron, now, is wanting to attach itself to another atom. The attracted atom would have enough attraction {less negatively charged}, in its atomic make up, to attract this free electron to its own outer orbit, When this free electron attaches itself to the second atom’s outer orbit, the new atom would now hold that negatively charged electron in its outer orbit. When this electron becomes a part of its new host, the atom receiving this new electron would become more negatively charged. The new host may still be with a positive charge or may become negatively charge. The atom’s charge only becomes negatively charged if it, now, has more electrons than protons. The host atom may have many protons more than electron and is positively charged, the adding of one electron would only make it less positively charged. The host atom may have been neutral and the adding of only one electron would then make it with a negative charge. The adding of even more electrons to this atom would make this atom even more negatively charged. In the same thought the loss of electrons from an atom would then make that atom less negatively charged.

When an electron becomes a free electron (breaks free of an atom), that movement is called current. If that free electron attaches (transfers) itself to a good insulator (non-conductive). This energy would be called static electricity (Stored Energy). Static electricity would be found in a battery or capacitor. Lightning is a form of released static electricity.

Lightning

Lightning is a form of static electricity. Once lightning hits the grounding source, then it either becomes neutral and without a charge, or it becomes static electricity again in another host. If static electricity is stored in a battery, and is released, it could run the bulb of a flashlight, or even a motor of a toy, etc.

Inducing Atoms

We can induce positively charged, and negatively charged atoms to pass their electrons from their outer orbit to a second atom to be absorbed into its outer orbit, by several methods. One method is to cause friction by rubbing an object. Have you ever admired a fur coat or carpet, in dry weather by rubbing it? Then, did you approach a door knob or other clothing item, and experience a small shock or spark? This flash is due to the passage of a spark of electricity, between your hand and the other object. This is an example of released static electricity. The spark was caused by the transferring or absorbing of the electrons in your body that you received from rubbing the fur coat, to the other object.

If you transferred by contact electrons from the fur coat to yourself thus making you more negatively charged. You had more electrons in your body than protons. When you approached the neutral door knob, or other neutral clothing, the protons contained in this object were moved to be concentrated on that side of that other object. This made the door knob, or other clothing, positively charged, and wanting to accept electrons. When you got close enough to attract the excess electrons away from your body to the other object (door knob or other clothing) then the electron jumped from your body to the other object. When the electricity jumped, it caused the spark during the jump of electricity from your body to the other object. This spark created, momentarily, from your negatively charged body to the positively charged door knob, or other clothing, could be called a minor bolt of lightening. It would be a minor bolt of lightening but it would have the same makeup and properties of a lightening bolt.

The Movement of Electrons

We can cause the movement of electrons from one object to another object by touching the host object to the receiving object. In the above description (you being shocked), we might find that you were not so heavily with a negative charge, or the door knob were more evenly charged, with a closer number of electrons, as you had in your body, then the transfer, by jumping from you to the other object, would not have happened until you touched the object. If this would have been the case, you would not have received near the severity of shock that you did when it jumped from your body. This happens because with the negative and positive charges of the two objects were more evenly proportioned the attraction of the door knob to receive the electrons from your body would not have been near as great, thus being a weaker movement of electrons. This is what we call force or speed. This force is called power (voltage).

Two phenomena happened in the physics of the above weaker action. When the protons and neutrons are more equal, the electrons are closer to the nucleus thus having a lesser amount of charge, when breaking free, than when the electron is farther away, and more ready to become a free electron. Remember that a free electron greatly increases, in electrical charge (magnifies), than an electron that has not become free, and is still under the control of the proton in its nucleus.

Second Phenomenon

The second phenomenon is the fact that when a jump spark transfer happens, the more strongly charged electron breaking free from the host atom becomes even more greatly charged (magnifies even more) due to the jump (transformation) from its host object. This can be compared to the actions of a coil or transformer in the increase of charge.

You could have moved the electron in another manner. You could be far away from the receiving object, You could use a metallic conductor such as a copper wire to make the connection. You would connect the wire {conductor} to the host {holding a negative charge}, and then to the receiving object {holding a positive charge}. The wire would then act as a conductor. This wire would, in general terms, spit out an electron out the end of the wire for every electron that it receives at the beginning end of the wire like a chain reaction, because of it’s ability to readily absorb or pass electrons. The conductor would retain approximately the same amount of electrons at the end of the conductance action, as it had at the beginning of the conductance action {absorbing and passing electron from one object to another}. The properties of the conductor, when finished {passing electrons}, would still be approximately the same properties as it had at the beginning of the conductance activity due to its willingness to absorb and release electrons from its properties. This is the third method of electron transfer.

Movement of Electrons

The movement of electrons is called current. The storing of an electrical charge is called static electricity. The force created in the movement of electricity (an electron breaking free of one atom and moving to a second atom) (not the movement of that electron as much as the action of breaking free from the outer orbit of that host atom thus increasing the charge of that electron) is called power (voltage).

We have learned to a certain degree how to harness and control the movement of electrons, and to control the amount of force created by that movement. We have also learned how to use, in the manner of work, the product crated by the movement of those electrons. Work can be measured in horsepower. etc.

Producing Electricity

We produce electricity (movement of electron) by many different methods. We also perform work by the creation of this electron movement, from many different forms of electricity. AC, and/or, DC electricity can be produced. We produce electricity in dynamos to serve most of the country. Dynamos are driven in many different ways. Some examples of the force we use to drive our dynamos are as follows. We use the power of the fall of water (great dams holding back great amounts of water under our control).

We, also use, The power of steam created by the burning of coal. We, also use, the power of the artificial splitting of atoms in Nuclear power plants. We, also use, the power of steam, by the burning of natural gas. We even have what is called fuel cells that acts much like a battery but never runs down as long a catalyst is supplied. This type of production of electricity takes substances like hydrogen and mixes oxygen with the hydrogen by way of a an anode and using electrolyte. The best part of this newer method of producing electricity is the byproduct created by this fuel cell is water instead of something negative to the environment. Sound like a good idea to me!

A Note on Electricity

We make AC electricity by creating a cycle in the DC electricity that we have produced. In generic terms AC electricity is DC electricity being turned on, and turned off, approximately 60 times a second. Other Countries may use different cycles such as 50 Cycle electricity. We may also create AC electricity by the constant reversing of the polarity of the electricity, by a series of automatic mechanical switching of the conductors, thus reversing the polarity. This reversing of polarity would have to take place at the same approximate speed of 60 cycles to have the same AC affect. The reason we change DC electricity to AC electricity is to create an ability to use transformers. DC electricity can only be transformed when the DC electricity is turned on, or shut off, or reversed in polarity. We are able to increase the power {voltage or force} of the AC electricity by using transformers. Once we transform and, increase the power, we then are able to deliver that electricity great distances. We can now serve electricity to the world, over great distances, due to the ability for us to transform the AC electricity, we make, to higher levels of power {voltage}. We can also transform electricity back to what ever lower voltage we want, once we get to where we want the electricity to perform the work we desire. When we increase the power {voltage}, we reduce the affects of voltage drop {the electricity that we create and loose the ability to use, due to the resistant properties of the conductors that we use, and the distance it has to travel}. The higher voltage that we transform the power source to, allows us to deliver that electricity. The higher voltage or power allows the great distances we have to travel to deliver the electricity that we produce, for our consumer, to use to produce work. This would be the electricity that we buy from our utility companies.

A Note from the Author

The above information is intended to give you a simplified form of understanding of where electricity comes from and what we do with this electricity, and how we use this electricity to perform work {lights, horse power, etc.}.

I hope that this document helps you to understand how we have learned the molecular makeup of objects, and the ability of the electrons to change the molecular makeup of an object, and how electrons can continually leave and be replenished by the receiving of electrons back to that object without the molecular makeup being substantially changed, and how we have learned to harness the movements of these electrons to perform work for us.

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