Ask an Expert

 

Have you ever wondered why shoes hanging on a power line don’t get fried? Now you can get answers to these and all your energy-related questions. Just Ask an Expert!

The Expert answers new questions regularly, so check back to see if YOUR
question is up!


Click on a question below to see the answer:

Answer: Most electricity in this country is produced at power plants where fossil fuels (coal, oil, or natural gas) or renewable sources (such as water, wind, biomass, or geothermal energy) are used to turn turbines. The turbines turn electromagnets that are surrounded by heavy coils of copper wire. The moving magnets cause the electrons in the copper wire to move from atom to atom, generating electricity. Electricity can also be produced from sunshine, using special panels that convert sunlight into electricity. You can see these panels on the rooftops of many Southern California homes, businesses, and warehouses.

Answer: Here is a simple example of energy conversion: When you boil water using an electric teapot, electrical energy is converted to thermal energy, or heat. Energy conversion also occurs within your body, as your digestive process converts the chemical energy of food to the mechanical energy that you use to move and the thermal energy that keeps you warm.

Answer: The Expert does not recommend putting wet socks on an electric radiator. The socks could catch fire or create a shock hazard. Always keep socks and other flammable items, whether wet or dry, away from electric heaters.

Answer: This is one of our most popular questions, and it’s an important one. Electricity is a process that begins with electrons that orbit the center of atoms. When an outside force is applied, electrons can break free and get “bumped” from one atom to the next. The resulting continuous flow of electrons from atom to atom results in electricity. Electric power plants rely on this atomic process. Fossil fuel energy sources (such as coal, oil, or natural gas) or renewable energy sources (such as water or wind) are used to turn turbines. The turbines turn electromagnets that are surrounded by heavy coils of copper wire. The moving magnets create the outside force that causes the electrons in the copper wire to move from atom to atom, generating electricity.

Answer: You're right, Grace! Everything is indeed made out of particles! Unfortunately, even if we could make a magnifying lens strong enough to observe the electrons that generate electricity, we would not be able to see them because as light (photons) strikes the electrons, it changes their energy and their position.

Answer: The phenomenon you’re referring to is called static electricity, which is created through friction. You may be mixing up two different methods, however, for creating static electricity with our bodies. When you shuffle your feet across a carpet, you create many surface contacts between your feet and the carpet, and thus some of the negatively charged electrons in the atoms of the carpet are transferred to the atoms in your feet. This gives your feet a slightly negative charge, and builds up a static charge on your skin. If you then touch a doorknob, you feel an electric “spark” when you discharge the static as the extra electrons jump from you to the doorknob. But I don’t think your hair would stand up!

The way to make your hair stand on end is to rub a balloon against your head. If you do that, the balloon takes electrons in the atoms of your hair into its atoms. Once that happens, your hair and the balloon have opposite charges and attract one another, making your hair stick to the balloon. This happens because opposite charges attract.

Answer: Another student asked this several questions below, but I’ll repeat my answer here for you: Electricity is a process that begins with electrons that orbit the center of atoms. The electrons in some materials – such as copper and other metals – are only loosely attached to their atoms, allowing electricity to travel through these materials easily. When an outside force is applied to these materials, electrons can break free and get “bumped” from one atom to the next. The resulting continuous flow of electrons from atom to atom results in electricity.

Electric power plants rely on this atomic process. Fossil fuel energy sources (such as coal, oil, or natural gas) or renewable energy sources (such as water or wind) are used to turn turbines. The turbines turn electromagnets that are surrounded by heavy coils of copper wire. The moving magnets create the outside force that causes the electrons in the copper wire to move from atom to atom, generating electricity.

Answer: If you see a downed power line, never approach it, always stay away and call 911. Learn how to stay safe by visiting the How Electricity Can Hurt You section of our website at: http://sce.e-smartonline.net/elec_safety-smart/electricity_can_hurt/index.html

Answer: earn more about the risks of electrical shock and how you can stay safe by visiting the How Electricity Can Hurt You section of our website at: http://sce.e-smartonline.net/elec_safety-smart/electricity_can_hurt/index.html

Answer: Natural gas doesn’t have an energy source—it IS an energy source! Natural gas is a fuel that’s used to heat buildings, cook food, dry clothes, heat water, and even to help produce electricity. In fact, about 20 percent of the electricity that SCE provides to our customers is generated with the help of natural gas. You can learn more about how natural gas and other fuels are used to produce electricity by visiting the Producing Electricity page of our website: http://sce.e-smartonline.net/elec_safety-smart/tell-me-more/producing.html

See more questions