Electric Arc (Encyclopedia of Science)
An electric arc is a device in which an electric current (a flow of electrons) is caused to flow between two points separated by a gas. The two points are called electrodes. The one from which the current originates is the cathode. The electrode toward which electrons flow is the anode. The term electric arc refers both to the device itself as well as to the electric discharge that takes place within the device. Arcs can make use of high, atmospheric, or low pressures and can contain a variety of gases. They have wide uses as luminous lamps; as furnaces; for heating, cutting, and welding; and as tools for certain kinds of chemical analysis.
Electrical conductivity in gases
Gases are normally poor conductors of electricity. The atoms or molecules of which they consist usually contain no free electrons needed for a current to flow. That condition can change, however. If sufficient energy is supplied to the gas, its atoms or molecules will break apart (ionize) into charged particles. If a spark is passed through a container of oxygen gas, for example, oxygen molecules ionize to form some positively charged oxygen ions and some negatively charged oxygen ions. These charged particles then make it possible for the gas to become conductive.
In an electric arc, the energy needed to produce ionization...
(The entire section is 971 words.)
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