How Thomas Edison's Direct Current Changed the World

Posted on 28th April 2018

If you've ever taken a history class about science and modern industrial marvels, you have likely heard the name Thomas Edison. This genius is responsible for discovering the ability to generate and harness electricity in order to provide people with a source of energy.

As the first man to invent the light bulb, Thomas Edison has surely made his claim to fame. Even today, modern electrical companies and energy labs are created in his namesake to honor the legacy he has left. But that's not all; the light bulb is not the only thing that Thomas Edison has brought into the world. In fact, it is his theories and discoveries on direct current that truly changed our world and the way we live.

How did Thomas Edison's direct current change the world? What's so important about direct current, anyway? Read on to discover the answers!

Thomas Edison and Direct Current

Edison had always known that there is a way to channel or harness the power of electricity. Inspired by Benjamin Franklin's legendary kite flight over 100 years prior, Edison knew that this experiment could be taken further. He soon discovered and developed direct current.

What is direct current, exactly?

Direct current is an electrical current that:

  • Flows in a single direction
  • Is constant
  • Can be harnessed in a battery
  • Can be very high voltage

And among other things, direct current is currently used as a major power supply for transmissions, power grids, and most sources of electricity. While there has been a constant debate between the advantages of direct current and alternating current, which was developed directly by Edison's competitor, Nikola Tesla, the world typically turns towards direct current to provide most sources of electrical power.

While Edison was not the first to develop direct current itself, he was the first to understand it and reproduce it on a massive scale. Large power grids were constructed to offer direct current to houses and buildings around the nation.

Direct Current's Impact on the World

Without direct current, our world would be very dark. Although many arguments have been made over the past decades about the superiority of alternating current over direct current, it can also be argued that alternating current would not have been developed if direct current was not discovered first. Edison and Tesla often had to come head to head and fight over which of their currents was superior, but their arguments actually went down as very important events in history.

Direct current has been since improved upon, and in recent decades a more powerful high-voltage option. The world at one point did switch to alternating current; however, with recent developments in stronger and more powerful direct current, many power plants have gone back to providing it as a source of energy.

Current Direct Current Applications

If direct current is so important, what exactly is it used for today?

Direct current is most commonly found in batteries and solar power systems, or anything that uses super low-voltage applications. Most electric circuits that run inside, outside, and throughout the home use a DC power supply. DC power is required for connectors, sockets, fixtures, and other common outlets around the house. Essentially, DC is used for almost everything.

In the car, DC batteries are installed. While the alternator uses alternating current, given its name, the rest of the car's functions and applications use direct current. DC is even used in telecommunication, through high-voltage transmissions. The electricity that is generated from coal or natural gases in power plants is often a direct current that is sent through the transmitters, the grids, and the power lines that carry it to your home.

There are some uses for alternating current. Most chargers that give power to your laptop or mobile device use an alternating current. It's important to note the significance of both. However, when it comes to history, direct current has truly changed the world we live in today. We would not have the same technologies or conveniences as we do now without it.

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