Pocket Genius Science: Energy and forces – Using electricity

Facts At Your Fingertips: Energy and forces – Using electricity

The electricity we use around our homes and to power our gadgets is produced in several ways. It can be generated in massive power plants located far away.

On a smaller scale, items such as flashlights and cell phones can be powered by batteries that provide electricity whenever we want.

Generating electricity

Electricity is produced, or generated, at power plants. They use massive machines called generators, which contain large coils of wire that spin inside a magnetic field to produce electricity.

The coils are connected to turbines—large wheels with blades that are pushed around by steam or water. The steam is produced by heating coal, oil, or gas, or using nuclear power. Water-powered turbines are found at hydroelectric power plants.


When water is released from a hydroelectric power plant’s reservoir it rushes past the turbine’s blades, sending them spinning.

In a loop

Current electricity requires a complete loop of wire, called a circuit, to flow. A circuit needs a source of electrical energy, such as a battery, as well as an object to be powered, such as a lightbulb. It can also have a switch.

This is a break in the circuit, which can be closed to complete the loop so that electricity can flow.

Storing electricity

Batteries store energy in chemicals.

When a battery is put into a circuit it makes a current flow around the circuit. Batteries are very useful for small electrical devices that do not need much power, or for devices that have to be portable.