Matter & Energy

Matter is composed of atoms or groups of atoms called molecules. The arrangement of particles in a material depends on the physical state of the substance. In a solid, particles form a compact structure that resists flow. Particles in a liquid have more energy than those in a solid. They can flow past one another, but they remain close. Particles in a gas have the most energy. They move rapidly and are separated from one another by relatively large distances.

Alternating Current

An alternating current is an electric current that changes direction at regular intervals. When a conductor is moved back and forth in a magnetic field, the flow of current in the conductor will reverse direction as often as the physical motion of the conductor reverses direction. Most electric power stations supply electricity in the form of alternating currents. The current flows first in one direction, builds up to a maximum in that direction, and dies down to zero. It then immediately starts flowing in the opposite direction, builds up to a maximum in that direction, and again dies down to zero. Then it immediately starts in the first direction again. This surging back and forth can occur at a very rapid rate.

Two consecutive surges, one in each direction, are called a cycle. The number of cycles completed by an electric current in one second is called the frequency of the current. In the United States and Canada, most currents have a frequency of 60 cycles per second.

Although direct and alternating currents share some characteristics, some properties of alternating current are somewhat different from those of direct current. Alternating currents also produce phenomena that direct currents do not. Some of the unique traits of alternating current make it ideal for power generation, transmission, and use.