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Effects of Electricity

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Here, we have covered five different effects of electricity in detail such as Electrostatic, Electrochemical, Heat, Magnetic, and Psychological effects.

Electrostatic Effects

Electrostatic effects of electricity are less common than other effects, but its uses are growing. Chimney stacks in power stations, for example, have an electrostatic generator that energizes the smoke particles so they become attached to an electrostatic grid. The collected particles cluster, then fall into a collection Shute to be taken away as pozzolanic ash for use in making cement. This reduces pollution and acid rain. Electrostatic processes are used in painting and even in making sandpaper.

Electrochemical Effects

Electrochemical processes include electric storage cells (accumulators) and batteries, electroplating and anodizing.

In fact, many chemical processes use electricity to separate or combine chemicals, refine chemicals and separate gases.

Manufacturing methods also commonly use electrical processes to etch and electroform or for electro erosion.

Heating Effects

When the opposition of a conductor (its resistance) is overcome by an applied voltage and a current flows, work is done and energy is expended. Heat is produced and this raises the temperature of the conductor and increases its resistance.

If a conductor of high resistance is concentrated in a small area with suitable safeguards and insulation, a source of heat is available, as in the domestic radiator. This is a desirable outcome, but consider the end result if great quantities of heat are produced in the conductors supplying the electrical energy to the radiator. The conductors may be inside the hollow walls of a building and, if the temperature around the enclosed conductors is raised sufficiently, the possibility of fire exists.

Steps must be taken to prevent such an undesirable event. The current flow must be reduced or the conductor cross-sectional area increased. Both steps lead to reduced power loss and a reduced heating effect in the supply conductors.

Magnetic Effects

Magnetism is created around any conductor when a current flows through it. If this magnetism is unwanted, consideration must be given to rerouting the conductors to diminish this effect.

Magnetic compasses are subject to stray magnetic fields and care must be taken to ensure that they are not affected in any way. With large currents, considerable forces can be set up between conductors and precautions have to be taken in this case also.

When the magnetic effect is a desirable one, steps are taken to concentrate the magnetism in specific locations. The magnetic effect is increased by creating coils of conductors called solenoids. Many turns may be added to the coils to enhance the effects.

Physiological Effects

Electric shock is a result of electricity passing through living tissue, which is a complex electrochemical process in itself. Electrical charges generated within living tissue cause various processes including sensation and muscle contraction to take place.

An external source of electrical energy causes a disruption to the normal functions occurring in living tissue. At very low levels, the normal chemical transfer between parts of a cell can be disrupted. Cellular heating can occur and cells can be damaged in a way that is not immediately obvious.

Higher levels of energy cause muscles to contract and internal body signals, such as heart and lung timing, to be disrupted. A human who sustains an electric shock may stop breathing, and their heart may either stop beating or enter a condition known as ventricular fibrillation. Either of the latter conditions may lead to death by electric shock, known as electrocution.

Please note and remember that electrocution is as permanent as any other form of death, whereas a person who contacts electricity and lives has had an electric shock. There are far fewer electrocutions statistically today than at times in the past hundred years.

The general effect of electric shock on the human body is unpleasant. Levels of current less than 10 mA cause muscle pain and shaking, while levels up to about 30 mA can cause severe muscle contractions, pain and internal organ stress.

Over 30 mA skin, body tissue, muscles and organs may be burned, torn or strained to an extent requiring hospitalization. Unconsciousness and even death can occur, especially if help is not immediately available.

Electricians and the general public should be aware that delayed-onset symptoms can occur long after the electric shock, and internal damage may not be obvious until many hours after the shock. In cases of electric shock, particularly across the chest or stomach, a medical checkup is strongly advised.

In severe or prolonged cases of electric shock, the heart may cease its rhythmic beating and enter a stage of fibrillation. Fibrillation is a state of rapid, uncoordinated muscle spasms. Blood stops flowing around the body and in around four minutes the brain starts dying. The heart may stop beating altogether and death is imminent.

Trained medical attendants use a defibrillator to attempt to restart the normal heart pumping action. A defibrillator is an electrical device in which a capacitor is charged to a pre-determined value. Electrodes connected to the machine are placed at appropriate places on the body and the capacitor is discharged, in an attempt to shock the heart into resuming its normal rhythm.

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About Ahmad Faizan

Mr. Ahmed Faizan Sheikh, M.Sc. (USA), Research Fellow (USA), a member of IEEE & CIGRE, is a Fulbright Alumnus and earned his Master’s Degree in Electrical and Power Engineering from Kansas State University, USA.