WAZIPOINT Engineering Science & Technology: What are the Effect of an Electric Current?

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

What are the Effect of an Electric Current?

The Three Major Effects of Electric Current: Heating Effect, Magnetic Effect & Chemical Effect

If electric current flows through a medium or conductor it will experience one or more effects of heating, magnetic or chemical.

Heating effect of electric current

When an electric current flows through a wire, the wire gets heated. This is called the heating effect of electric current.

When current flow through a conductor or the movement of electron in a conductor that causes energy flow and called current flow generates heat on the conductor. The amount of generated heat depends on the conductor volume, amount of current flow, and the duration of current flow.

Uses of heating effects of electric current- We can use this heating effect of an electric current in our daily life such the heating effect of electric current is used in electrical appliances like- electric bulb, electric heater, electric iron, electric room heater, immersion heater, electric kettle, hairdryer etc. 

All these electrical appliances have a coil of wire called an element. When an electric current flows through the element it becomes hot and gives out heat. The amount of heat produced in a wire depends upon its material, length and thickness. Electric heater Electric room heater Electric Iron, Electric kettle.

An electric fuse is a safety device used in an electrical circuit which protects the electrical circuits and appliances and prevents fires. An electrical fuse is used in all electrical circuits in buildings. Electric fuse has a wire which melts quickly and breaks when large electric current flows through it. 

Read more datils about Fuse Rating Calculating Guide:  

Magnetic effect of electric current

When an electric current flows through a wire, it behaves like a magnet. This is called the magnetic effect of electric current.

The first scientist who showed that electric current also produces magnetic effect was Hans Christian Oersted.

When an electric current is passed through a coil of insulated wire wound around a piece of iron, it becomes a magnet. Such a magnet is called an electromagnet. 

If you wind a piece of insulated wire around an iron nail in the form of a coil. Connect the free ends of the wire to an electric cell through a switch. Place some pins near the nail that will experience a magnetic property or magnetic field surrounding it. Because, when electric current is passed, the iron nail becomes a magnet and attracts the pins. When an electric current is switched off, the nail loses its magnetism.

A conductor carrying current and wound into a solenoid produces a magnetic field very similar to a permanent magnet but has the advantage of being switched on and off by any switch which controls the circuit current.

Direction of Magnetic force

The direction of the force depends on the direction of the current that flows through the conductor. You can find the direction with the simple right-hand rule, which states that: the index finger points in the direction of velocity ‘v’, middle finger points to the direction of magnetic field ‘B’ and the thumb points in the direction of the cross product ‘F’. The magnetic field can be denoted by

Uses of magnetic effects of an electric current-The magnetic effect of electric current are the principle upon which electric bells, relays, instruments, motors and generators work. 

An electric bell has a coil of wire wound around a piece of iron which acts as an electromagnet. An iron strip with a hammer is kept close to the electromagnet. There is a contact screw near the iron strip. When the iron strip is in contact with the screw, current flows through the coil and becomes an electromagnet. It pulls the iron strip and the hammer at the end of the strip strikes the gong of the bell and produces sound. When the electromagnet pulls the iron strip, it also breaks the circuit and the iron strip comes back to the original position and the process repeats and the bell rings.

If you interested to read the other article regarding high voltage electric line and its electromagnetic effects on the human body:

Chemical effect of the electric current

The passage of an electric current through a conducting solution causes a chemical reaction. That may cause the formation of bubbles of gas on the electrodes, deposits of metal on electrodes, changes of colour of solutions etc.

The electrical effect to the chemical bond of material is an electric current flows through a conducting liquid, the liquid is separated into its chemical parts.

The conductors which make contact with the liquid are called the anode and cathode (+ plate = anode, -plate = cathode). The liquid itself is called the electrolyte, and the process is called electrolysis.

The entire system is called a voltameter, If the electrodes take part in the chemical reaction they are called active electrodes, if they don’t, they are called inert or inactive electrodes.

Electrolysis of water (Hydrogen and oxygen) form at the two electrodes in the ratio 2:1. 

Uses of electrolysis: Used to electroplating-coating one metal with a thin layer of another metal in order to prevent rusting and also to improve the appearance; Used to purify metals and to extract metals from their ores; Used to coat a thin layer of dielectric on to the plate of an electrolytic capacitor.

Electrolysis is an industrial process used in the refining of metals and electroplating. It was one of the earliest industrial applications of electric current. Most of the aluminium produced today is extracted from its ore by electrochemical methods. 

Electroplating serves a double purpose by protecting a base metal from atmospheric erosion and also giving it a more expensive and attractive appearance. Silver and nickel plating has long been used to enhance the appearance of cutlery, candlesticks and sporting trophies.


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