Structure As A Source Of Energy


I’ve always felt like I had more difficulty understanding day-to-day, basic electrician work than I’ve had understanding the theoretical physics of electromagnetism, itself. This may seem backwards, but I think there’s at least a few reasons why… One, I don’t think the couple of electrician-handbooks I’ve read have really worried too much about providing fundamental explanations of the physics underlying electrical systemsI feel like such books tend to do some handwaving and that their explanations only go so far “back,” theoretically speaking. The second reason I have a harder time following books written for electricians (as opposed to physicists) is that, the way my mind works, I NEED the fundamental theories underlying all the applications, otherwise I never feel like I’m understanding the applications. I’m like that annoying child who responds to each of your answers to his questions with another, “Why?”  Thirdly, I think sometimes I just get BORED looking over circuit diagrams. 

After reading Understanding Basic Electronics by Larry D. Wolfgang, I realized that I’m a long way from being able to install the electrical infrastructure for any one’s new home– unless they want it burnt down for insurance, and then, well, maybe we could work something out. Nevertheless, I was struck by a few ideas while reading Wolfgang’s book…

One idea is this notion that STRUCTURE can be a source of Energy. Structure as an energy-source could be anything from a boulder perched atop a cliff just waiting to fall and crush something, to the pattern of “electrons” supposedly swarming around the “nucleus” of an atom. Typically, we think of an energy-source as something like gasoline, or batteries, or fire– something which induces a chemical reaction, often combustible. But consider the following…  if we take an electronically balanced hunk of crystal and add to it an “impurity” (something not the crystal) which is also electronically balanced, we can nevertheless induce an electric current. This current will be caused by the structure of the crystal…

For instance, if the crystal-structure has a certain electron-configuration and the impurity it is “doped” with has a certain electron-configuration, then it might be “energetically favorable” (a handwaving phrase if ever there were one) for the impurity to “donate” an electron to the crystal mass. However, since each atom of the crystal is already electronicallybalanced, the donated electron won’t find a home in any particular atom… or at least the electron’s energy won’t find a home– perhaps the electron might join an atom, but it would have to boot out another one to make way, and that booted-out electron would continue on the journey as if it were the same electron.

None of this new, not even to me.  What is new to me is the WAY I’ve been thinking of structure lately.  Maybe structure can legitimately be thought of as a sort of FUEL.


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