Practical Applications of Heating Effect of Electric Current The generation of heat in a conductor is an inevitable consequence of electric current. In many cases, it is undesirable as it converts useful electrical energy into heat. In electric circuits, the unavoidable heating can increase the temperature of the components and alter their properties. However, heating effect of electric current has many useful applications. The electric laundry iron, electric toaster, electric oven, electric kettle and electric heater are some of the familiar devices based on Joule’s heating.
The electric heating is also used to produce light, as in an electric bulb. Here, the filament must retain as much of the heat generated as is possible, so that it gets very hot and emits light. It must not melt at such high temperature. A strong metal with high melting point such as tungsten (melting point 3380°C) is used for making bulb filaments. The filament should be thermally isolated as much as possible, using insulating support, etc. The bulbs are usually filled with chemically inactive nitrogen and argon gases to prolong the life of filament. Most of the power consumed by the filament appears as heat, but a small part of it is in the form of light radiated.
Another common application of Joule’s heating is the fuse used in electric circuits. It protects circuits and appliances by stopping the flow of any unduly high electric current. The fuse is placed in series with the device. It consists of a piece of wire made of a metal or an alloy of appropriate melting point, for example aluminium, copper, iron, lead etc. If a current larger than the specified value flows through the circuit, the temperature of the fuse wire increases. This melts the fuse wire and breaks the circuit. The fuse wire is usually encased in a cartridge of porcelain or similar material with metal ends. The fuses used for domestic purposes are rated as 1 A, 2 A, 3 A, 5 A, 10 A, etc. For an electric iron which...
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