What’s an elec. current?

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Electric current is the flow of electrons through conductors, measured in amperes. It can be useful but also dangerous, as it can cause injury or fire. Voltage measures the energy carried by electric charge and is measured in volts. Lightning rods can protect buildings from lightning damage.

Electric current is the name of the flow of electrons that constitutes the movement of electric charge. Current flows when the voltage at one end of a conductor differs from the voltage at the other end of a conductor. A force most people deal with almost every day, the current that flows includes lighting, electrical power cords, and the startling shock that comes from shuffling shoes on carpet in dry weather. This force is measured in units called amperes, also called amps.

A ubiquitous presence in modern life, current can be found flowing through conductors. Conductors include metals such as aluminum, copper, and steel, but water can also conduct electricity. Electric current has proved to be very useful for people, but it can also be a danger to life and property. Since humans are made up largely of water, this means they can also conduct current, which puts them at risk of electrical injury if they come into contact with a conductor with an electrical charge. They can also be injured if they are in contact with a body of water when it has a charge, even if the water is in the form of a small stream or puddle.

When referring to electric current, it is correct to say that current flows through a conductive object such as a wire or appliance, not into it. Insulation such as rubber or ceramic is commonly used to keep current from flowing in nearby conductors. While air acts as an insulator for wires that have no contact with conductors, open-air wires often need to be insulated at connection points such as transformers or building entry and exit points.

An ampere, or amp, is the standard unit used to measure electric current. On paper, amperes can be calculated from coulombs by dividing coulombs by one second. Amperes in electric current are measured using an instrument called an ammeter. In equations, electric current is often referred to as I, which is used to indicate the current strength before the term was shortened to electric current.

Electric current can cause fire. When it comes in the form of lightning, this force can set foliage on fire and damage buildings. To prevent lightning damage to buildings in areas prone to thunderstorms, building owners often install devices called lightning rods that draw the lightning charge to a tall metal rod, which redirects and dissipates the current underground. Desert electrical storms that produce lightning without rain can ignite dry scrub that can grow to damage many homes and acres of land.

Voltage measures the energy carried by an electric charge. Voltage is measured in volts. The flow of electricity is often compared to the flow of water, and voltage is the electrical equivalent of water pressure. The higher the voltage, the faster the electrons will flow through the conductor.

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