Electronics Questions: How Wires, Fuses And Connectors Work

Electrical circuits use a combination of wires, fuses and connectors. These simple components play a very important role in the operation and safety of the circuits they are part of.

All electrical circuits and systems use a combination of wires, fuses and connectors to operate. These simple components are a very important part of the operation and safety of the electrical circuits they are a part of.

To understand how electrical wires, fuses and connectors work, one must first understand how electricity and a circuit works. Electricity is measured in current, amperage and resistance. Current is moving electrons within a material. The conductivity of the material that the current is flowing through depends on how easily the atoms in the material are moved. In metal, the electrons move easily, making it a very conductive material. The less conductivity there is, the greater the resistance will be. Resistance in wiring is caused by the gauge and length of the wire. Wires, fuses and connectors are made up of different types of metals, depending on the desired reaction to the electrical current.

At a minimum, an electrical circuit is made up of a power source, a load and two wires. The electrical current is drawn from the negative side of the power source through the load, energizing it, and is drawn back to the positive side of the power source.

Wires are what distribute electricity. From the power station that generates the electricity to the transformer that enables the electricity to enter your home and the wiring in a house. Wiring is the highway and interstate system of electricity.

Wiring is measured in length, bundling, gauge and material. The length is the resistance measurement of the wire. The longer the wire is, the more current that is lost through diminishing returns and heat. The bundling is how many strands of metal wire are twisted together, the more there are, the greater the resistance. The gauge is the thickness or size of the wire, the greater the gauge, the higher the resistance. The material is what type of metal is used to make up the wire, copper being the most common.

Most circuits have a fuse or circuit breaker integrated into it. A fuse is a thin piece of wire that is designed to melt if too much current is drawn through it. It is usually placed to protect the wiring of a circuit. If the load draws too much current for some reason, the fuse will melt before the wiring does. A circuit breaker performs the same function; however there is no melting metal and you can reset it after the problem is resolved.

Connectors, also called "Cannon Plugs" are used to connect many wires to a single component. Commonly used for complex components in a complex system that require many individual wires to be attached to them. These types of components are commonly found in cars, aircraft and other complex machines. The parts of a connector are the pins, sockets, the shell and the pin retainer. The pins and sockets are the heart of the connector. Wires are attached to each one, and they plug together. The pin retainer is usually made of rubber or other non-conductive material that aligns and holds the pins or sockets in place as well as sealing it from the elements. The shell is the outer casing that will have some type of locking device, either threads to tighten it down, or a "quick disconnect" type locking device. It can be locked to another connector or directly to a component.

Fuses, connectors and wiring are important components of any electrical circuit. Whether it is a simple electrical circuit in your home, or a more complex system onboard an aircraft, these components provide for the operation, reliability and system safety of any electrical system.

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