Lesson 1: What Is Electricity?
When you turn on a light or pop some bread in the toaster, electricity is there and ready to work for you. But what exactly is it? To find out, you have to get really small. You have to go down to the atomic level.
Everything is made of atoms—you, your desk, your chair, your lunch, everything. These atoms contain electrons, which are particles with a tiny negative electric charge. In some materials, electrons can jump from atom to atom. But for the electrons to start jumping, there needs to be an imbalance of electrons and a path for the electrons to follow.
You’ve probably experienced electricity yourself. Ever touch a doorknob and get a shock? In this case, there was an imbalance of electrons between you and the doorknob. In an instant, this imbalance was corrected.
In a battery, for instance, a negative pole has a lot of electrons, and a positive pole has few. When you connect the two poles through the circuitry of a device like a flashlight, the electrons have a path they can use to flow from the negative to the positive pole to correct the imbalance. This is what we call an “electric current.” In this example, we get the electricity to do some work—lighting a bulb.