Modern industrialised society is geared to using electricity. Electricity has characteristics that have made it uniquely appropriate for powering a highly technological society. There are many energy sources that can be readily converted into electricity.
In Australia, most power plants burn a fuel, such as coal, or use the energy of falling water to generate electricity on a large scale. Electricity is also relatively easy to distribute.
Electricity authorities use high-voltage transmission lines and transformers to distribute electricity to homes and industries around each state. Voltages can be as high as 5 x 105 volts from power stations but by the time this reaches homes, the electricity has been transformed to 240 volts. While it is relatively economical to generate electric power at a steady rate, there are both financial and environmental issues that should be considered when assessing the long-term impact of supplying commercial and household power.
The design of a motor for an electrical appliance requires consideration of whether it will run at a set speed, how much power it must supply, whether it will be powered by AC or DC and what reliability is required. The essentials of an electric motor are the supply of electrical energy to a coil in a magnetic field causing it to rotate.
The generation of electrical power requires relative motion between a magnetic field and a conductor. In a generator, mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy while the opposite occurs in an electric motor.
The electricity produced by most generators is in the form of alternating current. In general AC generators, motors and other electrical equipment are simpler, cheaper and more reliable than their DC counterparts. AC electricity can be easily transformed into higher or lower voltages making it more versatile than DC electricity.
This module increases students’ understanding of the applications and uses of physics and the implications of physics for society and the environment.