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Using Electrical Currents: Direct Current
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Monday, May 18, 2015

Whether you were warned as a child about not sticking a fork in an electrical socket (or you may have learned the hard way by actually putting one in the socket), many of the items and devices people use on a daily basis require an electrical charge to operate. But as we learned from the War on Currents, how the United States and other countries chose what standardized current they would use caused a quite a bit of controversy once electricity was becoming more commonplace.

But long behind us are the days of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla’s war, now in 2015. While the majority of our electricity and electrical systems are powered by alternating current (AC for short), there are a few devices that are powered by its opposite, direct current (DC for short). Each current had its own positives and negatives — we mean advantages and disadvantages — to why it should be the standard electrical current (not to mention Edison took to falsely claiming he electrocuted an elephant by alternating current to prove DC was superior). But in the end, AC is what’s pulsating through that socket in the wall where a fork shouldn’t go. But where exactly does that leave DC? A few devices require this powerful current that runs continually in one direction for specific reasons.

·      Solar cells, batteries, and fuel cells
The direct current that flows in all of these electrical devices allows them to perform their specific tasks that they have been designed for.

·      Anything that uses a transistor
This example may be stretching the rules a bit. You see, your iPhone, a flat-screen TV, and even computers all have converter boxes … in order to turn alternating current into direct current to run. Anything that uses a transistor relies on the flow of electricity in one direction, also known as direct current.

·      Light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
The somewhat funnily shaped light “bulbs,” which have steadily been replacing incandescent bulbs for years now, also operate on direct current. Edison just can’t catch a break, it seems.

Though alternating current is able to carry electricity hundreds of miles without losing power, unlike direct current, it isn’t necessarily ideal for every electrical device or electrical system. So even though Edison may have lost the battle to Tesla, it looks like direct current is having a “positive” reception by people this time around. Perhaps the War on Currents never really ended.

Tune into next month’s blog post where we’ll cover what applications and certain electrical devices that use alternating current to power them!



 
 

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