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Heating Effect of Electric Current

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  • Electric Fuses
  • Principle of Fuse


  • Joule's Law
  • Practical Applications of Heating Effect of Electric Current
  • Heating effect of electric current and its applications in daily life



-A part of the source energy in maintaining the current may be consumed into useful work (like in rotating the blades of an electric fan). Rest of the source energy may be expended in heat to raise the temperature of gadget. We often observe this in our everyday life. For example, an electric fan becomes warm if used continuously for longer time etc.

-On the other hand, if the electric circuit is purely resistive, that is, a configuration of resistors only connected to a battery; the source energy continually gets dissipated entirely in the form of heat. This is known as the heating effect of electric current. This effect is utilised in devices such as electric heater, electric iron etc.

Cause of heating effect of electric current: Electric current generates heat to overcome the resistance offered by the conductor through which it passes. Higher the resistance, the electric current will generate higher amount of heat. Thus, generation of heat by electric current while passing through a conductor is an inevitable consequence. This heating effect is used in many appliances, such as electric iron, electric heater, electric geyser, etc.


-Consider a current I flowing through a resistor of resistance R. Let the potential difference across it be V Let t be the time during which a charge Q flows across. The work done in moving the charge Q through a potential difference V is VQ. Therefore, the source must supply energy equal to VQ in time t. Hence the power input to the circuit by the source is


-Or the energy supplied to the circuit by the source in time t is P × t, that is, Vit. This energy gets dissipated in the resistor as heat. Thus for a steady current I, the amount of heat H produced in time t is H = Vit ............(1)

We know that V=IR, substituting the value of V in eq 1



This is known as joules law of heating which states that heat produced in a resistor is directly proportional to the square of current given to the resistor, directly proportional to the resistance for a given current and directly proportional to the time for which the current is flowing through the resistor.


-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.

Fuse of 1A, 2A, 3A, 5A, 10A, etc. are used for domestic purpose.

If you would like to contribute notes or other learning material, please submit them using the button below. | Electricity part 11 (Heating effect of current)

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Electricity part 11 (Heating effect of current) [00:09:15]
Series: series 1

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