Thursday, February 20, 2014

The History of Electricity

The Beginning of Electricity in America
Benjamin Franklin began experimenting with electricity in America and documented the experiments.  He was able to finance his extensive work by selling off his belongings.  He is known for flying a kite in a storm that had a wet string and a key tied to the end of it.  When he observed sparks leaping from the key to his hand he understood that lightning was a natural form of electricity.
Alessandro Volta of Italy invented the electric cell in 1800, making it easier for scientists to study electricity and its various applications.  When the electric cells are connected together a battery is created.
Alexander Graham Bell is known to have invented the telephone.  Bell's worked as a teacher for deaf students professionally which explains his fascination with different ways to transmit sounds.  During his experiments with sound transmission he began to use electricity, which eventually led to his success with the telephone.
Thomas Doolittle, a mill worker from Connecticut created the method that was used to create the first hand drawn copper wire that strong enough to use as a telegraph wire.  A man by the name of Michael Faraday discovered that electricity was created when a magnet was passed through ordinary copper wire.  This is the application that is used in America's power plant to generate electricity that is delivered to customers across the country.  Both the electric generator and are built on this principle.  A generator takes mechanical energy and converts it to electricity.  On the other hand, motors convert electrical energy to mechanical energy.
While Thomas Edison experimented with electricity he was able to invent the electrical light bulb in addition to many other gadgets.  His biggest challenge when creating the light bulb was to find the right material to use for the filament.  He settled on carbon soaked cotton thread.  The carbon was used to prevent the cotton thread from burning.  The thread glowed as the electricity traveled through it.  As soon as the popularity of the light bulb caught on he turned his attention to the development of power plants that would be run the light bulbs.  The first power plant that he built began operating in 1882 and served 85 New York city customers.
A major turning point occurred in 1895.  The power plant that was built by Edison was only capable of transporting power a short distance since it used direct current of DC.  The power was transmitted approximately just one square mile surrounding the power plant.  With the development of alternating current or AC in 1895 the plant was able to transport power over 200 miles from the newly built power plant in Niagara Falls.
Electricity was rather slow to catch on in America.  Many people were excited by the new inventions, but some were afraid of the electrical current and hesitated to have it installed in their houses.  Some people were unable to afford the price of the service.  Electricity was blamed for causing the end of simple living.  Many people felt that electric lights were less romantic than the gas light they were used to.
Many expos and fairs often featured exhibits that displayed the recent inventions that used electricity as their power source.  The 1893 Columbian Exposition that was held in Chicago displayed 5,000 arc lights and 90,000 incandescent lamps.  People that visited the expo had the opportunity to view or ride the different electrified exhibits which included three cranes, several water fountains, a moving sidewalk, elevators and a street car system that was created by General Electric.
The Pan-American Exposition that was held in Buffalo, NY in 1901 used electricity as the theme.  An electric tower that was 400 feet in height, displaying 40,000 lights was featured in addition to the Electricity Building which was home to a huge exhibit of electrical appliances.
Power became accessible by more people as small electrical companies started to spring up around the country.  A number of the smaller companies started to merge together and form large conglomerates, the largest ones being General Electric and Westinghouse.  These two companies started building power plants that were equipped with generators that used fossil fuel combustion and steam to produce electricity.  Other plants were being built that used kinetic power to generate power like water or wind.  Once nuclear power was developed, the power that was released as nuclear reactions occurred was used to create electricity.
The demand for electricity grew by 12% each year for the first thirty years of the twentieth century.  In order to keep up with today's demand for electricity, renewable resources are being implemented to supply the much needed power.  Many people are using solar power, hydropower and wind power are being put to use in order to meet the demands of consumers and to protect the environment.

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