Today is Wisdom Wednesday! The day where we enlighten you a little more on the technical aspects of our project. This week: what have our electrical engineers been up to? Their complex work is hidden in the smallest spaces of the car, but has a grand impact on our performance. In this edition they explain some basics of electrical engineering and give a demonstration which visualizes some of the key principles and makes sparks fly!
Voltage and current; what’s what?
Voltage and current are two fundamental quantities in electricity. Simply said, voltage (V) is the electrical force which would drive an electric current between two points. Current (A) is the rate at which electric charge flows past a point in a circuit. The two quantities have a causal relation. Voltage is the cause and current the effect, current cannot flow without voltage, but voltage can exist without current. A voltage source has two points that have a difference in electrical potential (plus and minus). When there is a closed loop between these two points, it is called a circuit and current can flow. In the absence of a circuit, current will not flow even if there is voltage.
Electric power, or Wattage (W), is the rate, per unit time (e.g. the amount of energy per second), at which electrical energy is transferred by an electric circuit. Like the solar energy generated by our solar panel! It is transformed to other forms of energy when electric charges move through an electric potential (voltage) difference, which occurs in electrical components in electric circuits. Components in an electric circuit can be divided into two categories:
- Active devices or power sources: If positive charge moves from the negative to the positive terminal, work will be done on the charges and energy is converted to electric potential energy from some other type of energy, such as mechanical or chemical energy. Devices in which this occurs, are called active devices or power sources; such as electric generators and batteries.
- Passive devices or loads: When electric charges move through a potential difference from a higher to a lower voltage, work is done by the charges on the device. The potential energy of the charges due to the voltage between the terminals, is converted to kinetic energy in the device. These devices are called passive components or loads; they ‘consume’ electric power from the circuit, converting it to other forms of energy such as mechanical work, heat, light, etc. Examples are electrical appliances, such as light bulbs, electric motors, and electric heaters.
Putting up resistance!
Substances in which electricity can flow are called conductors. A piece of conducting material is called a resistor if it has a particular resistance when used in a circuit. Conductors are made of high-conductivity materials such as metals, in particular copper and aluminum. Resistors can be made of several materials depending on factors such as the desired resistance, amount of energy that it needs to dissipate, precision, and costs. These resistors come in handy when trying to drop voltage in a circuit. In the video below our electrical engineers demonstrate resistance by making use of a tube!
What does this have to do with a solar car?
To convert the energy we generate with our solar panels to electrical energy, that can be fed into our electrical motor, we need an advanced electrical circuit which can gather all this energy and transform it. This is what our electrical engineers have been designing and developing over the last few months. They have designed their own electronic systems which control parts of our solar car. These systems make use of several components that are integrated in a certain circuit. By arranging our components as efficiently as possible, we can make optimal use of our solar panel (to which you can still contribute via our crowdfunding!) and be the first car to cross the finish line in Adelaide this October!
Wisdom Wednesday recap:
- Voltage and current have a causal relation. Voltage is the cause and current the effect, current cannot flow without voltage but voltage can exist without current.
- Electric energy, generated by our solar panel, is transformed to other forms of energy when electric charges move through an electric potential (voltage) difference, which occurs in electrical components in electric circuits, to support our electrical motor.
- Our electrical engineers have designed their own electronic systems, custom to fitting all their needs to make our efficiency as high as possible!
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Do you also support the development of new innovative technologies and want to contribute to the development of the car of tomorrow? You can! Go to our site and adopt a solar cell!