What is electricity?

  • Electricity is the presence or flow of charged particles.
  • An electric current is the flow of electrons around a circuit.
  • Static electricity is the build up of electrons on an insulator.
A case study video explaining how electricity is used to power a car.

How is electricity used?

Everything is made up of tiny particles. These particles may have positive or negative charges. Electricity is the presence or flow of these charged particles.

All materials contain negatively-charged particles called electrons. In metals the electrons are free to move, which means they are good conductors of electricity. If there is a complete circuit a battery can push electrons all around the circuit. This is an electric current. We use electric currents to control and operate devices, including phones, computers and light bulbs.

Some materials do not conduct electricity – they are insulators. Imagine rubbing a balloon on your jumper. The balloon and jumper are each made of different insulating materials. As you rub, electrons move from the jumper to the balloon, so negative charge builds up on the balloon. If you touch the balloon, you may feel a shock as the charge travels through you to the ground.