An electronic device for explaining electricity
A wire with giant moving electrons.               1993 W. Beaty

Build it yourself! Or if not, this device is available through Arbor Scientific. Contact them for a current catalog and pricing. ( Catalog page) Even if you don't intend to purchase this device, their catalog is worthwhile for the science toys and demos.
This device shows us what "electricity" would look like if we could see it.

All metals are full of movable electrons (a physics teacher would call it "the electron sea.") These electrons can be pushed around by a voltage or "potential difference." Wires act like water-filled hoses, where voltage is like water pressure, and batteries are like water pumps.

If we could SEE the electrons during electric currents in a wire, they'd look something like the following GIF animations, although they'd move far more slowly:


See what these devices teach? Here's a list. The concepts are somewhat (ahem) shocking. If electrons are the "carriers" of charges of electricity; if electrons are "particles of electricity," then...
  • In an AC wire, the electricity sits in one place and vibrates back and forth.
  • All conductors are already full of electricity. Electricity is supplied by the metal.
  • Wires act like water pipes which are always full of water.
  • The word "Conductor" means the same as "contains movable electricity."
  • Electricity is not produced by batteries or generators, it flows THROUGH.
  • Electricity is not consumed by motors or light bulbs, it all just goes through.
  • Electricity does not flow at the speed of light. It flows quite slowly.
  • Capacitors don't store any electricity (they store EM energy.)
  • Individual electrons don't carry the electrical energy.
  • Electricity is not a form of energy.
  • Electric current is not a flow of energy.
  • Circuits are like drive belts, not like strings of coal-cars.
  • Electric energy and charges of electricity are two different things.

For more on this, see:

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Billb's other articles on making 'electricity' visible:


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