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NEW! I was wondering if someone can explain how a Shock Pen works. I opened one up and did some research. From what I understand, there is a battery supply and an induction coil. I don't understand how this setup works, or what it needs to work properly.
—Chris

Answer: A safe shock pen has three essential components: one or more batteries (usually AAA); an induction coil that serves as a transformer of the current from the battery; and a device, usually a transistor, that causes the current to switch on and off very rapidly. The induction coil (a much smaller version of the spark coils used in auto ignition systems) converts the output from the battery to a much higher voltage by way of electromagnetic induction. Basically, the current from the battery creates an electromagnetic field in the coil, which stores its energy. When the current is interrupted by the transistor (think of it as a tiny switch), the magnetic field in the coil abruptly collapses. That sends a pulse of electric current into the circuit—which is what causes the shock. The transistor flips again and the process repeats itself. This happens many times a second for as long as the circuit is open and current is flowing. In the case of the pen, the circuit only stays open for as long as the person holding it is holding down the “clicker.”

What is the average cost to power a school?
—Kaylee

Answer: School energy costs vary widely and depend on many factors: the size of the school; whether it is open year round or just during the fall, winter, and spring; the age of the buildings; the type of fuel used for heating and cooling; fuel costs; and local weather patterns. This makes it difficult to come up with an accurate average school energy cost. If you would like to learn how much it costs to power your school, ask your principal. She or he should be able to tell you how much your school spends for energy in a typical year.

What is a typical day like at your job?
—Jadon

Answer: When I’m not running my index finger across the pages of a thick book with a red cover, you’ll find me sitting in front of my computer. Every morning, I check my email for new questions from students about electricity or natural gas. Answering these questions quickly is my top priority, so if I can’t answer a question off the top of my head, I research it online or call someone with expertise in the topic, such as an electrical engineer or a natural gas geologist. After I finish with student questions I work with a team of writers, researchers, and designers to develop booklets, videos, and websites that teach people how to live and work safely around electricity and natural gas.

How do energy and matter relate?
—Megan

Answer: The great scientist Albert Einstein showed that matter is basically organized energy. All matter is made of atoms, which consist of incredibly tiny little bits of energy called quanta. (One of them is called a quantum.) Every atom has a nucleus at its center, which includes two kinds of quanta, protons and neutrons. Around this nucleus are spinning even tinier quanta called electrons.

What is the average cost to power a school?
—Kaylee

Answer: School energy costs vary widely and depend on many factors: the size of the school; whether it is open year round or just during the fall, winter, and spring; the age of the buildings; the type of fuel used for heating and cooling; fuel costs; and local weather patterns. This makes it difficult to come up with an accurate average school energy cost. If you would like to learn how much it costs to power your school, ask your principal. She or he should be able to tell you how much your school spends for energy in a typical year.

How is electricity made?
—Ali

Answer: In power plants various energy sources, such as fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) or renewable energy sources (such as water, the sun, wind, biomass, or geothermal) are used to turn turbines. The turbines turn electromagnets that are surrounded by heavy coils of copper wire. The moving magnets cause the electrons in the copper wire to move from atom to atom, generating electricity.

How does energy work?
—Lillie

Answer: This is a broad question, and it's hard to know exactly what you're asking here. Perhaps you can find an answer to your question on this site within the Electrical Safety World section at http://www.e-smartonline.net/duke-energy/websites/esw.html. Try the "Producing Electricity" link within For Kids/Tell Me More to learn how electricity is generated from both nonrenewable and renewable energy resources. Or, if that's not quite what you're after, try the "Where Electricity Comes From" link within For Kids/The Travels of Electricity.

What do nuclear power plants plan to do with the nuclear wastes buried in the earth? Will they continue to bury it?
—Ross

Answer: Nuclear plants do not store or bury used nuclear fuel in the earth. Although there are currently no facilities in the United States that allow for a common, permanent location for the disposal of used nuclear fuel, all nuclear power plants store used fuel safely and securely at the plant site. Commercial nuclear power plants were designed and built with storage pools to provide safe on–site storage of used fuel. In addition to storage pools, used fuel is also kept in dry storage canisters or casks. Constructed of many layers of steel and lead, these containers are extremely robust, and are stored on thick concrete pads inside a highly protected area of the plant.

Although the project has been on hold for the past few years, in 2002 Congress had selected Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a permanent location to store used nuclear fuel. This was to be a remote, desert location to be developed as a long-term repository for used nuclear fuel. Because of the delay, nuclear plants are required to store used fuel on site.

Advanced technologies are being developed to recycle used nuclear fuel. A number of other countries outside of the United States, including France, the United Kingdom, and Russia, have successfully used recycling to reduce nuclear waste volume and content for many years. Through a method known as reprocessing, fuel constituents are chemically separated after being removed from the reactor. The uranium recovered through reprocessing can be recycled into new fuel.

What percentage of the electricity I consume comes from petroleum (or oil) power plants? What percentage comes from solar, wind, and biomass?
—Mike

Answer: Duke Energy operates 14 oil–fired generating plants and stations to produce electricity. These units are used to supplement power supply during peak demand periods when electricity use is highest. Percentages for the energy sources you’ve asked about aren’t available because these vary according to the weather, and also because Duke Energy is in the process of increasing its capacity in renewable energy production. We now have 11 solar farms in four states, totaling 60 MW capacity of solar power, and 15 wind farms in six states generating over 1,600 MW capacity of wind energy, with more wind farms to be completed by the end of 2012. As to biomass power, we buy more than 60 MW of electricity generated by the combustion of methane gas at landfills and the anaerobic digestion of poultry and swine waste in the Carolinas and elsewhere.

How does the electricity I consume in my house get made?
—Kelly

Answer: Electricity starts with atoms, the tiny particles that make up everything around us. Even tinier particles called electrons orbit the center of atoms. When electrons move between atoms through a wire, electricity results. Electricity is typically produced at power plants, where various energy sources are used to turn turbines. The turbines turn electromagnets that are surrounded by heavy coils of copper wire. The moving magnets cause the electrons in the copper wire to move from atom to atom, generating electricity.




 

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