How can we generate electricity?

Question: How can we generate electricity?

Answer: Electricity can be generated any time there is a voltage difference. There are two main ways we accomplish this.

First is using mechanical energy and an electrical motor to generate electricity. Faraday’s law of induction states (bear with me) that in any closed circuit the electromotive force is equal to the time rate change of the magnetic flux through the circuit. Essentially you can take a coil of wire (closed circuit) and move a magnet through it (magnetic flux) to generate electricity. Most often this is accomplished using turbines which are powered by wind, steam, or moving water. These spin transfering that rotational energy to electrical energy by moving magnets within coiled wire (in the most simple form).

Second is using materials that react to electromagnetic radiation and harnessing that energy to create a voltage difference. One of the most common examples of this is photovoltaics which make use of the photoelectric effect. This effect happens when a photon (light) is absorbed by a material causing an electron hole pair to be formed (basically an electron is “knocked loose” by the photon energy). We use specially formed materials to cause the electrons to flow one way and the hole (missing electron area) to move the other so it can’t refill. The electron will refill the hole if allowed so we give it an alternate path to follow creating electricity as it flows through.

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