Introduction to Electricity

Upon completion and review of this chapter, you should be able to:
• Define electricity, atomic structure, and elec-

tron movement and explain atomic theory in relation to battery operation, using like and unlike charges. • Explain the different sources of electricity. • Describe the scientists who were instrumental in the development of the different tenets of electrical theory.

Amber Atom Battery Current Electricity Electrolyte Electron Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Horsepower Ion Matter Neutron Nucleus Photoelectricity Piezoelectricity Proton Static Electricity Thermocouple Thermoelectricity Valence Voltage

This chapter reviews what electricity is in its basic form. We will look at natural forms of electrical energy, and the people who have historically played a part in developing the theories that explain electricity. It is extremely important for automotive technicians to learn all that they can about basic electricity and electronics, because in today’s modern automobile, there is a wire or computer connected to just about everything.


and one electron. Others would show themselves to be carbon. The structure of the atom resembles planets in orbit around a sun. for example—and begin to divide it into smaller parts. All the atoms of any particular element look essentially the same. There are many different kinds of matter. Atoms If you could keep dividing the material indefinitely. Orbiting around the nucleus. ments are copper. containing protons and neutrons. An atom is itself made up of smaller particles. and electrons—are important to us because they are used to explain electrical ATOMIC STRUCTURE We define matter as anything that takes up space and. For example. well. yet we can successfully produce electricity and harness it by changing various other forms of natural energy. for example. are the electrons. You can’t touch it. He also discovered that other materials shared the ability to attract. and electrons— depends on which element the atom is from. Scientists have discovered many particles in the atom. A hydrogen atom (Figure 2-1) contains one proton. At the center of the atom is the nucleus. yellowish resin. Aluminum. You can think of these as universal building blocks. and 13 electrons. neutrons. Two thousand years after ancient Greece. Let’s say we take a chunk of material—a rock we found in the desert. All atoms share the same basic structure. yet others would be iron. a generator just puts it in motion. Next. in constant motion. has weight. it became charged with an unseen force that had the ability to attract other lightweight objects such as feathers. we might discover that the rock contains three different elements. protons. Electricity is a natural form of energy that comes from many sources. record players. by comparison. They found that if they took amber (a translucent. Next we take one of the halves and divide it into two parts. First we divide it in half. derived from fossilized trees) and rubbed it against other materials. but the atoms of each element are different from those of another element. By this process. iron. But neither of these scientist/ inventors had anything to do with the discovery of electricity. the Greeks discovered electricity. Each element is a type of matter that has certain individual characteristics. has 13 protons. At that point. Some of our pieces would have the characteristics of copper. electricity is all around us. We use it every day. WHAT IS ELECTRICITY? Was electricity invented or discovered? The answer is that electricity was discovered. only change it. Other elements have been produced only in the laboratory. we have classified over a hundred elements. gold. Most have been found in nature. we need to talk about just three: electrons. and movies. We cannot create or destroy energy. You can’t smell it.22 Chapter Two Many of us take for granted the sources of electricity. you would have an atom. somewhat like a magnet picks up metal objects. William Gilbert published a book describing these phenomena. But what exactly is electricity? You can’t see it. On Earth. as shown in Figure 2-1. An atom is the smallest particle that has the characteristic of the element. These particles—protons. The exact number of each of an atom’s particles—protons. 14 neutrons. even a very powerful one. one neutron. such as sulfur and glass. but it would probably be a shocking experience and could cause serious injury. electricity is in the atmosphere all around us. but for the purpose of explaining electricity. In 1600. Sir Thomas Browne first used the word electricity during the 1600s. We test those two parts. we will discuss atomic structure to find a more exact definition of electricity. Every material we know is made up of one or more elements. Examples of natural ele- . An atom is so small that it cannot be seen with a conventional microscope. He used the Latin word “elektron” to describe amber and the word “electrica” for similar substances. when subjected to gravity. and silver. Actually. and neutrons. which is the smallest particle into which an element can be divided and still have all the characteristics of that element. So who discovered electricity? Ben Franklin? Thomas Edison figured out how to use electricity to make light bulbs. neutrons. The simplest atom is that of the element hydrogen. you would eventually get a piece that only had the characteristics of a single element. Then we test both halves to see if it still has the same characteristics. you could touch it.

the atom itself would become positively charged. attraction. the higher the energy of the electrons. The nucleus contains the proton and the neutron. one or more electrons may leave orbit to become free electrons. voltage. Figure 2-1. charges. the atom would have more positive than negative charges. The term electricity is used to describe the behavior of these electrons in the outer orbits of the atoms. these two forces are in balance. One force comes from electrical charges and the other force. Ordinarily. Under normal conditions. the total number of protons would be one greater than the total number of electrons. electrons orbit protons in the nucleus in the same way the planets orbit the Sun. Normally. Electrons have 0. All elements are composed of atoms and each element has its own characteristic number of protons with a corresponding equal number of electrons. Instead of being electrically neutral. which contains almost all of the mass of the entire atom. and current. It is possible for an atom to lose or gain electrons. Electrical Charges Neutrons have no charge.Introduction to Electricity 23 Figure 2-3. In an atom (left). Unlike and like charges of a magnet. but electrons have a negative electrical charge. In its normal state. an atom has the same number of electrons as it does protons. just like the north and south poles of a magnet. If an atom loses one electron. electrons remain in orbit because the centrifugal force exactly opposes the electrical charge attraction. electrons are bound to the positively charged nuclei of atoms by the attraction between opposite electrical charges. The number of protons associated with the nucleus of an atom identifies it as a specific element. Protons carry a positive electrical charge (Figure 2-2). Figure 2-2. as shown in Figure 2-3. Inside each atom. All electrons and protons are alike. There are two types of force at work in every atom. This means the atom is electrically neutral or balanced because there are exactly as many negative charges as there are positive charges. centrifugal force. Electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom in a concentric ring known as a shell. Opposite electrical charges always attract one another. The charges within an atom. particles and objects with like charges tend to move away from each other unless the repelling force is opposed.0005 of the mass of a proton. The greater the speed. As a result. When . is generated when an object moves in a circular path. so particles or objects with opposite charges tend to move toward each other unless something opposes the Electric Potential—Voltage We noted that a balance (Figure 2-4) between centrifugal force and the attraction of opposing charges keeps electrons in their orbits. the further away from the nucleus the electron orbit. negatively charged electrons are attracted to positively charged protons. If anything upsets that balance. The electrons are in different shells or distances from the nucleus. Like electrical charges always repel.

will resemble neon in terms of their chemical inertness. An ion is an atom that has gained or lost an electron. The most complex atoms may have seven shells. has a single shell containing one electron. hydrogen. Single Valence Electron Figure 2-5. the outer three shells are only partially occupied. Other more complex atoms that have eight electrons in their outermost shell. 50. A balanced atom. even though this shell might not be full. This is known as the flow of electric current or electricity. When this potential or pressure causes a number of electrons to move in a single direction. An atom of the element helium whose atomic number is 2 has a full inner shell. 98. see the section on “Electrical Units of Measurement” in Chapter 3 of the Shop Manual. in sequence: 2.24 Chapter Two a number of free electrons gather in one location. 8. 72. For more information about voltage and current. Valence ring. Figure 2-6. The chemical properties of atoms are defined by how the shells are occupied with electrons. An atom of the element neon with an atomic number of 10 has both a full first and second shell (2 and 8): its second shell is its valence ring (Figure 2-6). Remember that an ion is any atom with either a surplus or deficit of electrons. a charge of electricity builds up. The outermost shell in any atom is known as its valence ring. Such an unbalanced atom would be described as negatively (an excess of electrons) or positively (a net deficit of electrons) charged and known as an ion (Figure 2-5). 18. The simplest element. of an atom proceed outward from the nucleus. The heaviest elements in their normal states have only the first four shells fully occupied with electrons. This difference in electric potential is more commonly known as voltage and can be compared to a difference in pressure that makes water flow. The electrons in the shells closest to the nucleus of the atom are held most tightly while those in the outermost shell are held more loosely. . Any atom may possess more or fewer electrons than protons. Ions try to regain their balance of equal protons and electrons by exchanging electrons with nearby atoms. 32. The number of electrons in the valence ring will dictate some basic characteristics of an element. An unbalanced atom. Copper Atom Figure 2-4. Valence represents the ability to combine. the effect is current flow. So the definition of current is the flow of electrons. The maximum number of electrons that can occupy shells one through seven are. Free electrons can rest on a surface or travel through matter (or a vacuum) at close to the speed of light. or shells. Valence The concentric orbital paths. This charge may also be called a difference in electric “potential”. Electrons resting on a surface will cause it to be negatively charged.

He also thought that electricity was like a fluid in a pipe that flowed from one terminal to the other. current flow in a circuit. the men who studied it were able to use electricity without really understanding why and how it worked. writer. established the terms positive and negative. For instance. as shown in Figure 2-7. that surface is described as having a negative static electrical charge. ᭿ Benjamin Franklin’s Theory: When the science of electricity was still young. In the early 1700s. Current flow is measured in amperes: one ampere equals 6. and formulated the conventional theory of Lightning Can Travel from Cloud to Cloud Positively Charged Cloud Negatively Charged Cloud Lightning Can Travel from GROUND to Cloud Lightning Can Travel from Cloud to GROUND Figure 2-7. Natural negatively charged particles will produce lightning when they find a path negative to positive. Benjamin Franklin. The extent of the charge is measured in voltage or charge differential. He named the electrical terminals positive and negative and suggested that current moved from the positive terminal to the negative terminal. the American printer. they will attract the electrons by causing them to fill the “holes” left by the missing electrons in the positive ions. and politician. . Although he was not the first to think that electricity and lightning were the same. A stream of moving electrons is known as an electrical current. he was the first to prove it. Franklin was trying to prove that the positive and negative electron distribution in the clouds produced the static electricity that causes lightning.Introduction to Electricity 25 Because the electrons are not moving. inventor. if a group of positive ions passes in close proximity to electrons resting on a surface. SOURCES OF ELECTRICITY Lightning Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) proved the electrical nature of thunderstorms in his famous kite experiment. Electron charges in the earth’s atmosphere.28 × 1018 electrons (1 coulomb) passing a given point per second. Benjamin Franklin created what we now call the Conventional Theory of Current Flow. brought his famed common sense to the problem.

measured in voltage.000 volts to 50. which illustrates that like charges repel each other. as described in the examples in the opening to this chapter. as shown in Figure 2-10. Such contact produces a charge imbalance by pulling electrons of one surface from that of the other. of course. such as the comb. Static electricity is an everyday phenomenon. Static can be created by any one of the following examples: • Walking on carpet or vinyl floors • Movement between clothing and the body causes friction • Combing hair with a plastic comb These actions cause the electrons to be pulled from an object. This is so because invisible lines of force exist around a charged object.26 Chapter Two Plastic Comb with A Negative Charge After Combing Hair Small Pieces of Paper Figure 2-9. the charge differential will exist. While the surfaces with opposite charges remain separate. When the two polarities of charge are united. Electrostatic Field The attraction between opposing electrical charges does not require contact between the objects involved. The extent of the charge differential is.000 volts. Taken all together. Static electricity discharge attraction. Static electricity discharge to metal object. the result is the theft of electrons. the charge imbalance will be canceled. whereas unlike charges are attracted toward each other. such as a metal object. the result is an excess of electrons (negative charge) and a deficit in the other (positive charge). the electrons are not moving. . An automotive technician should always use a static grounding strap when working with static-sensitive electronic devices such as PCMs and ECMs. Such fields are strongest very close to the charged object and get weaker as they extend away from the object. these lines of force make up an electrostatic field. such as the hair. See Figure 2-8. Static Electricity Static electricity is the term used to describe an electrical charge that can build up in insulation by friction or movement. and it involves voltages of 1. Static electricity can also be referred to as frictional electricity because it results from the contact of two surfaces. thereby creating a negative charge on one. Chemical bonds are formed when any surfaces contact and if the atoms on one surface tend to hold electrons more tightly. It is referred to as static electricity because. and a positive charge to the other. as electrons are pulled away from a surface. Figure 2-8. until the electrical charge is dissipated. The charges created can be shown as in Figure 2-9. The static charges that build up are not discharged until a conductor. is touched.

During discharge. The symbol tells you that the component is a solid-state component. forming lead sulfate. lead in the positive active material combines with the sulfate radical. your charge can be discharged to the other surface. In the case of automotive battery. This is called electrostatic discharge (ESD). This current is produced by chemical reactions between the active materials in the two kinds of plates and the sulfuric acid in the electrolyte (Figure 2-12).Introduction to Electricity 27 Figure 2-11. In any battery. At the same time. Chemical Source A battery creates electricity by chemical reaction by the lead dioxide and lead plates submerged in a sulfuric acid electrolyte. Figure 2-12. Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) An electrostatic charge can build up on the surface of your body. See Figure 2-12. oxygen in the positive active material combines with hydrogen in the electrolyte to form water. the chemical reaction that occurs releases electrons and generates direct current (DC) electricity. The lead dioxide in the positive plate is a compound of lead and oxygen. Figure 2-13 . An electrolyte is a chemical solution that usually includes water and other compounds that conduct electricity. Electrostatic field. If you touch something. Figure 2-11 shows what the ESD symbol looks like. When the battery is connected into a completed electrical circuit. Some service manuals use the words “solid-state” instead of the ESD symbol. Sulfuric acid is a compound of hydrogen and the sulfate radical. Look for these indicators and take the suggested ESD precautions when you work on sensitive components. Automotive battery operation. We will cover this subject in detail in Chapter 10 of this manual. Negative Plate Lead Positive Plate Lead Dioxide Electrolyte Sulfuric Acid Figure 2-10. the solution is water and sulfuric acid. current begins to flow from the battery. ESD symbol.

A change in the potential of electrons between the positive and negative terminal creates electricity know as piezoelectricity. Pyrometer thermocouple. ºF Thermocouple Voltmeter Figure 2-14. Photoelectricity is used in photoelectric cells. which is then connected to a voltmeter. also called detonation sensors. electron flow is stimulated and is called photoelectricity (Figure 2-15). such as selenium and cesium. which is a small device that gives off a low voltage when two dissimilar metals are heated. quartz or barium titanate. Piezoelectricity is the principle used in knock sensors (KS).000-hertz (cycles per second) frequency. Light is composed of particles called photons that are pure energy and contain no mass. the battery can produce little or no additional energy. undergo physical stress or vibration. After most of the available active materials have reacted. such as quartz or barium titanate. Photoelectricity shows a very simplified version of a battery powered by a lemon. Lemon powered battery. a small oscillating voltage is produced. Figure 2-16 shows that when these materials. which is the frequency that the cylinder walls vibrate at during detonation. create a voltage if pressure is applied. Lemon Battery Figure 2-13. However.28 Chapter Two Voltmeter Pyrometer 200 300 400 500 600 Exhaust Temp. and the battery is then discharged. Solar energy is light energy from the sun that is gathered in a photovoltaic solar cell. A pyrometer is constructed of two dissimilar metals. such as steel and a copper Some crystals. which is known as thermoelectricity (Figure 214). Seebeck called this device a thermocouple. The typical knock sensor (Figure 2-17) produces about 300 millivolts of electricity and vibrates at a 6. The voltmeter can then be calibrated in degrees.” which means pressure. As the temperature at the connections of the two metals increases. The availability and amount of electrical energy that can be produced in this manner is limited by the active area and weight of the materials in the plates and by the quantity of sulfuric acid in the electrolyte. alloy. when sunlight contacts certain materials. . the reading on the voltmeter increases. This affect was discovered by a German scientist named Seebeck and is known as the Seebeck Effect. Piezoelectricity Thermoelectricity Applying heat to the connection point of two dissimilar metals can create electron flow (electricity). A pyrometer is commonly used to measure exhaust gas temperatures on diesel engines and other temperature measuring applications. which are used in ambient light sensors. The term comes from the Greek word “piezo. An example of a thermocouple is a temperature measuring device called a pyrometer.

Although the effect is only temporary. (GM Service and Parts Operations) Hard Rubber Cushion Figure 2-16. Applying a high-frequency alternating voltage to a crystal can create a reverse piezoelectric effect. Piezoelectric effect. or Rochelle salt. Piezoelectricity is put to practical use in phonograph pickups and crystal microphones. while the pressure lasts. Piezoelectric knock sensor. which means.Introduction to Electricity 29 Figure 2-15. which are called ultrasonic sound waves because they are beyond . where mechanical vibrations (sound waves) are converted into varying voltage signals. The crystal then produces mechanical vibrations at the same frequency. the French chemists Pierre and Marie Curie discovered the phenomenon of piezoelectricity. ᭿ Squeeze a Rock Get a Volt In 1880. “electricity through pressure. a voltage is generated between the faces of the crystal. Similar applications are used in underwater hydrophones and piezoelectric stethoscopes. Photoelectric cell sensor. Hard Rubber Cushion Neon Lamp Barium Titanate Figure 2-17.” They found that when pressure is applied to a crystal of quartz. tourmaline. it can be maintained by alternating between compression and tension.

one horsepower equals 33. or 550 foot-pounds of work per second) and called this amount of work one horsepower. In 1800. among other things. In 1800. . Another person who influenced electrical technology was a Scottish inventor named James Watt (1736–1819). electrical current flow (measured in amperes) and the resistance to the current flow (measured in ohms: symbol Ω). ϭ 33. These ultrasonic vibrations are used. to detect sonar reflections from submarines and to drill holes in diseased teeth. and the transistor (1946). The German physicist George Simon Ohm (1787–1854) proved the mathematical relationship between electrical potential (voltage). James Watt worked in coal mines and saw the power of a horse as it 200 time 165 = 33. 1 Horsepower = a Horse pulling a 200 lb weight 165 feet in 1 minute 165 feet Time 1 Minute HISTORICAL FIGURES IN ELECTRICITY In 1767.000 foot-pounds of work per minute. The term brake horsepower comes from the method of testing the early engines. In the metric system.30 Chapter Two our range of hearing. a current would be produced. but perhaps even more importantly. The term watt is most commonly used to express electrical power.-lb. such as the wattage of light bulbs. A 100-watt light bulb requires more electrical power to light than a 60watt bulb. The discovery of the electron by J. this invention is now known as the battery. the power of engines is measured in watts or kilowatts after James Watt. which simply states that a magnetic field induces an electromotive force in a moving conductor. the simple conversion is 1 horsepower = 746 watts. Watt’s Law states that a watt is the power done by moving one ampere through a resistance of one ohm using one volt in one second. A kilowatt is 1000 watts and a kilowatt hour is one kilowatt of power being used for one hour. Thomson (1856–1940) in 1897 introduced the science of electronics and quickly resulted in the invention of the diode (1904). Andre Marie Ampere established the importance of the relationship between electricity and magnetism. At the same time. ϫ 200 lb. the triode (1907). Alessandro Volta invented the first battery. Electricity is sold in kilowatt hours. A light bulb is an example of where watts are commonly used.J.000 ft. built the first central power station and electrical distribution system in New York City in 1881. One horsepower is needed to lift 550 pounds 1 foot off the ground in 1 second. per minute. Horsepower. Michael Faraday (1791–1867) opened the doors of the science we now know as electromagnetism when he published his law of induction. he calculated the work that a horse could do and determined that a horse could walk 165 feet in one minute pulling a 200-pound weight (165 ft. Thomas Edison (1847–1931) invented the incandescent lamp in 1879. He developed the steam engine to take over the task of lifting heavy loads instead of using the power of a horse. This provided a means of introducing electrical power into industry and the home. Alessandro Volta discovered that if two dissimilar metals were brought in contact with a salt solution.000 lb/ft of work in 1 minute 200 Pounds Figure 2-18. was used to lift coal from deep in the earth. Horsepower can also be expressed in units of electrical power or watts.000 lb/ft of work 1 horse can do 33. Joseph Priestly established that electrical charges attract with a force inversely proportional to distance.

James Watt developed a method used to express a unit of electrical power known as Watt’s Law. An automotive technician should always use a static grounding strap when working with staticsensitive electronic devices. Piezoelectricity is electricity produced when materials such as quartz or barium titanate are placed under pressure. for whatever reason. All atoms share the same basic structure. If you touch something. An atom is the smallest part of an element that retains all of the properties of that element. the number of protons will match the number of electrons and the atom can be described as being in an electrically neutral state. Electricity may be defined as the movement of free electrons from one atom to another. containing protons. George Simon Ohm showed a relationship between resistance. A thermocouple is a small device made of two dissimilar metals that gives off a low voltage when heated. Electromagnetic induction is the production of electricity when a current is carried through a conductor and a magnetic field is produced. A photon is pure energy that contains no mass. Solar energy is light energy (photons) from the sun that is gathered in a photovoltaic solar cell. When light contacts certain materials. An electrostatic charge can build up on the surface of your body. so all matter is electrical in essence. this invention is now known as the battery. he developed what is known as Ohm’s Law. unbalanced or ionized. The phenomenon we describe as electricity concerns the behavior of atoms that have become. and voltage in an electrical circuit. All matter is composed of atoms and electrical charge is a component of all atoms. The production of electricity from chemical energy is demonstrated in the lead-acid battery. a current would be produced. Static electricity is electricity at rest or without any motion. Andre Marie Ampere established the importance of the relationship between electricity and magnetism. At the center of the atom is the nucleus. electron flow is stimulated and is called photoelectricity. .Introduction to Electricity 31 SUMMARY The Greeks discovered the first type of electricity in the form of static electricity when they observed that amber rubbed with fur would attract lightweight objects such as feathers. Alessandro Volta discovered that if two dissimilar metals were brought in contact with a salt solution. neutrons. and electrons. such as selenium and cesium. current. When an atom is balanced. Thermoelectricity is electricity produced when two dissimilar metals are heated to generate an electrical voltage. your charge can be discharged to the other surface. which is called electrostatic discharge (ESD).

The Germans c. Who is right? a. James Watt’s term horsepower is being discussed. Who is right? a. Who is right? a. The smallest part of an element that retains all of its characteristics is which of the following: a. A only b. A only b. The particles that orbit around the center of an atom are called which of the following: a. An atom that loses or gains one electron is called which of the following: a. electron flow is stimulated. Who is right? a. A only b. Two technicians are discussing how piezoelectricity works. Neutron 3. The Greeks d. An ion 5. Technician A says batteries produce direct current from a chemical reaction. An element c. Balanced b. A molecule d. Both A and B d. the barium titanate creates electricity. Nucleus d. Technician A says applying heat to the connection point of two dissimilar metals can create electron flow (electricity). The Italians b. Both A and B d. Neither A nor B 10. Who is right? a. Both A and B d. Who is right? a. The Irish 8. Technician B says the battery stores energy in a chemical form. Electrons b. Technician B says that an electrolyte is a chemical solution of water and hydrochloric acid that will conduct electricity. B only c. Neither A nor B 11. B only c. Nucleus 2. Mass b. Technician A says that static electricity is electricity in motion.32 Chapter Two Review Questions 1. Neither A nor B 12. Technician A says one horsepower equals 33. A only b. Technician A says it is electricity produced when barium titanate is placed under pressure. Both A and B d. Protons 4. Technician B says an electrostatic charge can build up on the surface of your body. Static electricity is being discussed. Both A and B d. Molecules c. Technician B says a thermocouple is a small device made of two dissimilar metals that gives off a low voltage when heated. Technician A says when sunlight contacts certain materials. B only c. Compound d. A only b. B only c. Technician B says when no change in the potential of electrons between positive and negative terminal occurs.000 foot-pounds of work per hour. B only c. What people discovered electricity? a. Proton c. Compound d. The general name given every substance in the physical universe is which of the following: a. Neither A nor B 9. Two technicians are discussing thermoelectricity. Atom b. Technician B says one horsepower would be produced when a horse walked 165 feet in one minute pulling . B only c. Both A and B d. Matter c. Neither A nor B 6. Technician B says solar energy is light energy from the moon that is gathered in a photovoltaic solar cell. Neither A nor B 7. A only b. Technician A says the battery provides electricity by releasing free electrons.

× 500 lb. a current would be produced. Both A and B d. Who is right? a. Technician A says Andre Marie Ampere established the importance of the relationship between electricity and magnetism. A only b. = 33. B only c. Both A and B d. Neither A nor B 13. A only b. Who is right? a. Technician B says Alessandro Volta discovered that if two dissimilar metals were brought in contact with a water solution.Introduction to Electricity 33 a 500-pound weight or 165 ft. Neither A nor B .000 ft-lb. B only c.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful