Electricity & Magnetism Belong Together

Electricity is one element of physics that we encounter on a daily basis. It powers our televisions and our computers and keeps the lights on at home. Magnets are something we think of as less common, only using them when we need to navigate using a compass or stick something to our fridge. But electricity and magnetism are really just two pieces of the same thing! Let’s shed some light on this idea.

light on

We can see some examples of this relationship using the induction coil. There are really two parts, so lets tackle them one at a time. First, whenever electricity runs through a wire, it creates a magnetic field. If the wire is in a circle, the magnetic field will be the strongest through the middle. By stacking up several loops of wire to make a coil, then we can create an electromagnet.

Picture_of_solenoid

Diagram of an electromagnet. Credit P. Wormer.

electromagnet

Electromagnet at AstroCamp. Pressing the button sends electricity through the wire solenoid which is coiled around a nail to create a magnetic field.

Not only can electricity be used to create a magnet, but magnetism can be used to create electricity. When a conductor, like a metal wire, feels a changing magnetic field, an electric current is created. We can even use this electricity to power a lightbulb! This process is called induction, and it is the basic principle by which electricity is generated in almost all power plants.

loop maybe

Strong neodymium magnets are rotated inside a coil of copper wire, producing a current. The needle moves back and forth, indicating the the current produced in this way is alternating, or AC current.

Combining both of these ideas, we can now see why the small metal ring hovers. Turning on electricity through the coil of wire creates a magnetic field that is felt by the metal ring. Then, through the process of induction, electricity is created in the ring. The ring is now an electromagnet with electricity running through it! The magnetic field from the ring and from the coil are pointed in opposite directions, so they repel, causing the ring to hover in midair. By submerging the ring in liquid nitrogen, we can lower its resistance and increase the electric current. A stronger current creates a stronger electromagnet and the ring shoots up to the ceiling!

JUMP

WELCOME TO OUR ASTROCAMP BLOG

We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. AstroCamp is a hands-on physical science program with an emphasis on astronomy and space exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and astronomical happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree in Physics or Astronomy, however it is not uncommon for them to have a Masters Degree or PhD. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science, space and astronomy information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.astrocampschool.org for additional information. Happy Reading!

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