It’s easy to shrug off electricity as a mundane part of life, but the more I think about it, the more it seems like magic. Electricity is the passing of electrons, the tiniest part of an individual atom, down the line from one atom to another like a hot potato. This electron flow is what occurs along our power cords.
Positively charged electrons surge towards negative charges like water going downhill. If we put things like lightbulbs in the path, we can put the electron flow to our own use.
What our electrical engineers have accomplished over the centuries is a thing of beauty. Let’s take a closer look at an electrical transformer to see how nature has been reigned in.
The goal of a transformer is to convert the voltage of an electric current to a different voltage. Most commonly seen in the “wall wart” that takes the 120 volt electricity from the wall socket, and converts it to 7 volts to charge your mobile phone without causing it to explode.
The construction of a transformer is essentially simple. Just three parts. One incoming wire, one outgoing wire, and a specially shaped hunk of iron. The wires are wrapped around the opposite sides of the iron core, and there you have a transformer.
The amount of conversion depends on the number of times each wire is wrapped around the core. To convert 100 volts in to 10 volts out, you could wrap the incoming wire around 100 times, and the outgoing wire gets wrapped 10 times around the core.
The two wires do not touch. The incoming wrapped wires turn the iron core into an electromagnet, and through the process of induction, the magnetic flux creates voltage in the second outgoing wire. See, I told you it was like magic.
Your car has a transformer in it, called the ignition coil, that converts the electricity from your 12 volt battery into a charge of 20,000 t0 50,000 volts to send to the spark plugs so they can ignite the gasoline. That takes a lot of turns of the wire!
Of course, in the realities of electrical engineering transformers have a lot of added complexity to increase efficiency and safety, but at their core (literally) it all comes down to wound up wires.
- Source: Transformer – Wikipedia