February 15, 2005
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Electricity Facts
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  In the 1800's scientists discovered that magnetism makes electricity. Electricity and magnetism are linked and act in similar ways. Scientists used this discovery when they invented a machine that could make large amounts of electricity. This machine is called a generator. A generator makes electricity by moving a magnet inside a coil of wire. A generator produces an alternating current (AC current). An alternating current flows back and forth very fast in a wire.
There are small generators like the kind that supply electricity to a RV motor home. Portable Generator

There are large generators like the kind found inside a power station. They have huge magnets and huge coils of wire. Hydroelectric Generator

How are generators powered? There are several ways to power generators. To make the steam that runs generators we use the fossil fuels coal, natural gas, and oil, and we also use nuclear power. Wind power and solar power can also run generators. In Idaho hydroelectric power is frequently used to generate electricity.

If you have ever seen a dam on a river with many large wires nearby it is probably a hydroelectric plant. "Hydro" means water. The generators inside the dams are powered by falling water. Go behind the scenes of an hydroelectric plant.

Scientists are still researching new clean and safe ways of generating electricity.


Homemade electromagnet

Find out how you can make your own electromagnet here.

... And electricity can make magnetism!
You can make a magnet by wrapping a coil of wire around a piece of metal. This is called an electromagnet.

A very large electromagnet is used to pick up very large metal objects such as cars! So a magnet can make electricity and electricity can make a magnet.

A battery mixes two or more metals in a certain way to make electricity. It changes chemical energy into electrical energy. The current produced in a battery is called direct current (DC) because the electrons flow in only one direction.

Cars, flashlights, and handheld games use batteries.
Solar Cells

A solar cell is an arrangement of metals that take up light and release electricity. The cells can absorb light from the sun or light from artificial sources. A solar powered calculator is an example of a machine that uses solar cells. There are also solar powered cars.

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