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Preliminary Physics Module 2: Electrical

Energy in the Home

Society has become increasingly dependent on electricity over the last 200

Discuss how the main sources of domestic energy have changed over


Assess some of the impacts of changes in, and increased access to,
sources of energy for a community:


First main sources of energy were wood, animals, wind and water
Over time fuels such as coal, gas and oil began to be utilised

Increases standard of living
Affect on the environment
Greater access to communication devices
Lighting and heating

Discuss some of the ways in which electricity can be provided in

remote locations:

Small generators in which the coil is rotated by an internal

combustion engine using petrol or oil
Solar panels
Wind generators

One of the main advantages of electricity is that it can be moved with

comparative ease from one place to another through electric circuits

Describe the behaviour of electrostatic charges and the properties of

the fields associated with them:


Opposite charges attract, like charges repel

Electric charge is protons and electrons exerting electric forces on
one another

Define the unit of electric charge as the coulomb:

The SI unit of electric charge is the coulomb (C)

A coulomb is the amount of charge carried by one ampere in one
One coulomb is equal to the charge on 6.25 x 1018 electrons
The charge on one electron is approximately -1.60 x 10-19 C


Define the electric field as a field of force with a field strength equal
to the force per unit charge at that point


An electric field is a region where an electric charge experiences a

The direction of the electric field at a point is defined as the direction
of the force that acts on a positive electric charge placed at the point
If a force acts on a charge placed in an electric field then the electric

field strength is = , where E is the electric field strength (N C-1), F

is the force (N) and q is the charge (C)
Force and electric field strength are vector quantities, meaning that
they have both magnitude and direction

Define electric current as the rate at which charge flows

(coulombs/second or amperes) under the influence of an electric


Electric current is the rate at which charge flows under the influence
of an electric field
Electric current (I) is measured in amperes (A) which is the
equivalent to coulombs per second (it is measured by an ammeter in
Moving charges are called charge carriers
Actual current flow is from negative to positive but in physics we use
conventional current flow which is from positive to negative

Identify that current can be either direct with the net flow of charge
carriers moving in one direction or alternating with the charge
carriers moving backwards and forwards periodically:

Direct current (DC) is a current in which the charge carriers move

continuously in one direction
Alternating current (AC) is a current in which the charge carriers
move backwards and forwards periodically due to the terminals
periodically changing their polarities


Describe electric potential difference (voltage) between two points

as the change in potential energy per unit charge moving from one
point to the other (joules/coulomb or volts):

The potential difference across a power supply is the number of joules

of electric potential energy given to each coulomb of charge that
passes through the power supply
The potential difference between two points is the change in potential
energy per unit of charge
Potential difference is known as voltage and is measured in volts
(equivalent to joules/coulomb)
A voltmeter is used to measure the potential difference across
components of a circuit and is measured in parallel
The potential difference across a power supply is called a potential
rise and the potential difference across a resistor is called a potential

, where V is potential difference (V), W is the change in

electric potential energy (in joules, J) and q is the charge (C)


Discuss how potential difference changes between different points

around a DC circuit:


Identity the difference between conductors and insulators:


The potential difference across the power supply is equal to the

potential difference across the resistor

A conductor is a material that contains charge carriers (charged

particles are free to move through the material)
An insulator is a material that does not contain charge carriers
(charged particles are not free to move through the material)

Define resistance as the ratio of voltage to current for a particular


= :

The resistance of a resistor is the potential difference across the

resistor divided by the current passing through the resistor.
Resistance is measured in ohms ()
Ohms law is V=IR, where V is the potential difference (drop) across
the resistor (volts, V), I is the current (A) and R is the resistance ()
Ohms Law only applies to resistors whose resistance is the same no
matter what current is passing through them (R is constant)

2.10 Describe qualitatively how each of the following affects the

movement of electricity through a conductor: length, cross sectional
area, temperature, material:

Length the longer the section, the more likely therell be collisions
(between free electrons and ions), hence the longer the wire, the
greater the resistance
Cross sectional area the narrower the wire, the more difficulty
electrons have passing through (greater chance of collision), hence the
narrower the wire, the greater the resistance
Temperature The higher the temperature, the greater the resistance
because the ions vibrate with greater amplitude at higher
temperatures, increasing the chance of collision
Material The chance of collision also depends upon the chemical
structure of the material, materials with lower electrical conductivity
have greater resistance

Series and Parallel circuits serve different purposes in households


Identify the difference between series and parallel circuits:


Compare series and parallel circuits in terms of voltage across

components and current through them:


A series circuit is connected end to end whereas a parallel circuit

divides into two or more paths before recombining to complete the

Series circuits have the same current flowing through each of its
In series circuits, each resistor has its own voltage drop and the sum
of these voltage drops equals the voltage supplied V=V1+V2+V3
In parallel circuits, resistors have the same voltage drops regardless of
resistor value and each voltage drop equals the voltage supplied
In parallel circuits, each resistor has its own current and the sum of
their currents equals the current supplied (if resistors are equal, the
current will divide equally between them, if they are unequal, the
current will divide unequally with the greater current flowing through
the resistor with the lesser resistance) I=I1+I2+I3

Identify uses of ammeters and voltmeters:

An ammeter is used to measure the electric current in an electric

A voltmeter is used to measure the potential difference across a
component or components in an electric circuit


Explain why ammeters and voltmeters are connected differently in a



An ammeter is connected in series because current does not decrease

as it passes through a resistor
A voltmeter is connected in parallel with a component because it is
measuring the potential difference or difference in potential energy
across a component

Explain why there are different circuits for lighting, heating and
other appliances in a house:

There are different circuits for lighting, heating and other appliances
because each appliance has a maximum current that can go through it
without it being at risk of overloading (overloading can cause an
electrical fire)
Also, wires that carry higher currents are required to be thicker (to
prevent overloading)
Separate circuits are also used to decrease the chance of a short
circuit occurring (where an active wire comes in contact with a
neutral wire or is earthed)

The amount of power is related to the rate at which energy is transformed


Explain that power is the rate at which energy is transformed from

one form to another:

Power is the rate at which energy is transformed from one form to

If energy, W, is transformed in time, t, then the power, P, is given by
the formula:

, where power is measured in the SI unit watts

(W), energy transformed is measured in joules (J) and time is

measured in seconds (s)

Identify the relationship between power, potential difference and


= , where P is power (watts, W), V is potential difference

(volts, V) and I is current (amperes, A)

As P=W/t and P=VI, it can be deduced that W=Pt and therefore:


Identify that the total amount of energy used depends on the length
of time the current is flowing and can be calculated using: W=VIt:

The energy, W, generated in a power supply is given by the formula:

= , where W is the electric potential energy generated by

the power supply (J), V is voltage (V), I is current (A) and t is time (s)

Explain why the kilowatt-hour is used to measure electrical energy

consumption rather than the joule:

Electricity companies charge users for the amount of electrical

energy they use, because of the large amounts of energy involved
they measure the amount of energy used in kilowatt-hours rather
than joules (as joules would be inefficient)
A kilowatt-hour (kW-h) is a unit of energy equal to the amount of
energy used by a 1 kW device in 1 hour
To calculate the energy used in kilowatt-hours, the formula that is
used is:
energy in kilowatt-hours = power in kilowatts x time in hours

Electric currents also produce magnetic fields and these fields are used in
different devices in the home

Describe the behaviour of the magnetic poles of bar magnets when

they are brought close together:


When magnetic poles are brought close together they exert a force
on each other
North and South poles attract each other; like poles repel, opposite
poles attract
The closer the poles, the stronger the attraction or repulsion
A pair of magnetics with equal and opposite magnetic poles is called
a magnetic dipole
When two magnets are brought close together, there will be four
pairs of forces between the poles and this will result in an overall
force of attraction or repulsion depending on the positions of the
two magnets

Define the direction of the magnetic field at a point as the direction

of force on a very small north magnetic pole when placed at that

The magnetic field is a force field surrounding a magnetic pole that

exerts forces on other magnetic poles placed in the field
The direction of a magnetic field is the direction of the force on a
very small magnetic north pole placed in the field



Describe the magnetic field around pairs of magnetic poles:

The magnetic field surrounding a magnet:

Magnetic field between two equal north poles and two equal south

Magnetic field is measured in tesla (T)

Describe the production of a magnetic field by an electric current in

a straight current-carrying conductor and describe how the righthand grip rule can determine the direction of current and field lines:


The magnetic field lines surrounding a long, straight wire carrying a

current are concentric circles around the conductor
The direction of the magnetic field is given by the right-hand grip
rule which states: grip the wire with the right hand, with the thumb
pointing in the direction of the conventional current and the fingers
will curl around the wire in the direction of the magnetic field

Compare the nature and generation of magnetic fields by solenoids

and a bar magnet:

A solenoid is a cylindrical coil of wire. A current through the

solenoid will produce a magnetic field and the direction of the
magnetic field can be determined by gripping the right hand with the
fingers wrapped around the solenoid in the direction of the
conventional current, the thumb will point to the north pole of the
A solenoid is an electromagnet whereas a bar magnet is a permanent

Safety devices are important in household circuits


Discuss the dangers of an electric shock from both a 240 volt AC

mains supply and various DC voltages, from appliances, on the
muscles of the body:


An electric shock is a violent disruption of the nervous and muscular

systems caused by the passage of an electric current through the
Electrocution from DC voltages (from appliances) can cause muscles
to contract, which can prevent breathing and may cause death from
a lack of oxygen to the brain (this is commonly caused by touching
an active wire whilst in contact with the earth)
Electrocution from a 240 volt AC mains supply may cause pains at
the current entry and exit points, involuntary contraction of muscles,
inability to release grip, fibrillation (heart stops beating regularly
and oscillates rapidly), a loss of consciousness and potentially death,
the severity of the shock depends on the current

Describe the functions of circuit breakers, fuses, earthing, double

insulation and other safety devices in the home:

Circuit breakers prevent overloading of household circuits, they use

an electromagnet to mechanically break the circuit when the current
exceeds the maximum value
Fuses prevent overloading of household circuits, the fuse is designed
to melt when the current through the circuit exceeds the limit for the
Earth wires provide protection from electric shock for people using
electric appliances, it provides protection in case the active wire
comes in contact with the casing of the appliance
Double insulation is the flexible insulator covering (such as PVC)
that covers all household electrical wiring in case the inner
insulation fails
Residual current devices detect any leakage of current to the earth
either through your body or through some other conductor, it
switches off the current very quickly before it reaches a harmful