Use this glossary as a handy guide to the vocabulary used in the Electric Universe site.
amperage – measurement of the amount of flow in an electrical current; shorten to “amp”; named in honor of Andre’-Marie Ampere (1775-1836) for his early work in the field of electrodynamics.
atom –primary basis of all matter; has nucleus at center, surrounded by protons and neutrons, electrons.
base load – an electric utility’s minimum load of electricity over a certain time period.
biomass – material composed of garbage, leaf and yard debris, and other organic materials; when decomposed, serves as source of methane gas used for fuel.
British Thermal Unit (Btu) – often marked on heaters to show their measure of heating capacity; measure of heat needed to raise temperature one degree Fahrenheit in one pound of water. (see also, Calorie)
calorie – often marked to show heating capacity; measure of heat needed to raise temperature of one kilogram of water one degree Centigrade. (see also, British Thermal Unit)
cathode rays – electrons emitted in a stream; can be generated by gas-discharge tube or television tube. (see also Hall of Inventors, THOMAS, J. or ZWORYKIN, V.)
conservation – wise use and nurturing of natural resources.
control rod – in nuclear energy; the rod, plate, or tube containing material that controls or slows nuclear reaction; often rods filled with boron.
convection – in heat energy; the circulation of liquid, gas, or heat as moving masses; homes can use convection ovens that use fans to powerfully move heated air to cook food.
converting energy – since energy can only be converted, not created; changing energy from one form to another. (see also, thermodynamics, First Law)
demand – how consumers purchase supplies; the amount of services the electric utility has to provide at any one time.
efficiency – in electrical energy; the amount of a utility’s power generation process that is efficiently used to produce power; some power is lost in the transmission process.
electrical energy – energy converted; the force of moving electrons.
electron – basic particle that orbits the nucleus of an atom; can be stimulated to movement by various forces like magnetism. (see also Hall of Inventors, THOMAS, J.J.)
electrostatic precipitator – in power generation; a device that attracts tiny particles of waste material left after the burning of certain fuels in some power generation processes; particles then are washed to a safe depository.
energy – the study of energy; the capacity to do work; many forms of conversion using various fuels; in electrical energy. (see also, joules, calorie, Btu, or kilowatt-hour)
fission – in nuclear energy; the splitting of an atom’s (usually plutonium or uranium) nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy; starts a chain reaction of other atoms releasing large energy amounts, controlled in appropriate environments.
fly ash – in electrical generation; tiny particles of ash material left after the burning of certain fuels.
fuel cell – in electrical generation; apparatus for combining a certain fuel and oxygen to help in the generation of electricity; converting chemicals to electrical energy.
generating plant – in electrical generation; location where certain fuels (coal, natural gas, or nuclear) or hydro power are converted to electrical power; composed of turbines, generators, transformers, substations, power towers, and transmission lines.
geothermal energy – the potential energy contained in the Earth; the molten rock heats underground water into steam, which, in some locations, may be harnessed to drive turbines to generate electricity.
heat pump – apparatus that converts cool temperatures into heat, or warmer temperatures into cool, using some kind of energy, like electricity; used in businesses, homes, other structures.
horsepower – in energy generation; unit of power to denote per second 550 foot- pounds of work; often used in measuring mechanical energy.
hydroelectricity – in electrical generation; using the power of rushing water to push turbine blades, which turn shafts in generators that produce electricity.
ion – in study of electricity; an atom that has lost or gained electrons and by doing so becomes electrically charged.
joule – in study of energy; metric measurement of force equal to “one newton operating through the distance of one meter”; named after James Joule (1818-1889).
kilowatt – in study of electricity; 1000 watts of electricity; a measurement of electricity.
kilowatt-hour – in study of electricity; measurement of electricity equal to one kilowatt of power (1000 watts) produced or used in one clock hour.
kinetic energy – the study of energy; the energy of an object in motion.
laser – in study of electricity; light energy accelerated by electrical impulses, controlled under laboratory conditions; name stands for LIGHT AMPLIFICATION by STIMULATED EMISSION RADIATION.
magnetic energy – in study of magnetism; energy in moving or stimulated electrons.
magnetic field – in study of magnetism; area around a magnet which is influenced by the magnet’s power.
mass – matter in an object; acted on by the force of gravity on the Earth.
mass-energy equation – in study of energy; set forth by Albert Einstein as an extension of his famous 1905 theory of relativity; E = mc2, showing the relation in the conversion of mass to energy; proven later by scientists researching nuclear energy.
megawatt – in study of electricity; 1,000,000 watts of power or 1000 kilowatts.
molecule – in chemistry; smallest group of atoms held by chemical forces.
natural gas – in earth science; colorless gas; can be used as fuel in the generation of electricity or in the production of mechanical energy.
neutron – a basic particle; a little heavier than a proton; said to have a neutral electrical charge.
off-peak power – in electrical generation; amount of power generation during a period of low consumer demand. (see also, peak power)
Ohm’s Law – in electrical generation; an equation proposed by Georg Ohm in 1826 that states: if the given temperature remains constant, the current flowing through certain conductors is proportional to the potential difference (voltage) across it, or “current equals voltage divided by resistance.” (see also, superconductor)
ore – in energy generation; a material mined for its ability to be converted into a type of fuel.
peak power – in electrical generation; amount of power generation during a period of high consumer demand. (see also, off-peak power)
piezoelectricity – in electrical generation; an electrical charge that occurs when crystals made of special materials (a type of quartz) are pressed or stretched.
photovoltaic cell – in electrical generation; a device where light energy is converted to electrical energy.
potential energy – energy that has stored or dormant qualities.
proton – in nuclear energy; a basic particle present in an atom’s nucleus; said to have a positive electrical charge.
roentgen – in nuclear energy; a unit of exposure to radiation like X-rays; named for the discoverer of X-rays, Wilhelm Roentgen, in 1895.
solar energy – the use of energy that reaches the Earth from the sun.
solar cell – a apparatus that collects energy from the sun and converts it to electrical energy; often an arrangement of solar cells would be used to provide the optimum collection.
spent fuel – in nuclear energy; nuclear material with usefulness depleted; spent fuel has to be properly stored because of the remaining residual radiation.
superconductor – in electrical generation; material that is capable of being cooled to near absolute zero, and then show the effects of not having electrical resistance; first discovered by Dutch physicist Heike J. Onnes in 1911.
thermal energy – energy from heat.
thermodynamics – the study of the connection between heat and other forms of energy; first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Second law of thermodynamics states that energy passes from one useful form of energy to another, less useful form.
transmission – in energy generation; getting the power to the consumer.
transmission lines – wires for getting the high voltage of electricity from one place to another.
voltage – in electrical generation; a measure of the force of electrical current; named after the scientist who perfected the dry cell battery in 1800, Alessandro Volta.
X-rays – a form of electromagnetic radiation that can probe materials; discovered accidentally by a scientist who was experimenting with cathode ray tubes, Wilhelm Roentgen, in 1895; called x-rays because Roentgen didn’t know what caused them. (see also, roentgen)