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Photograph of an electric arc produced between two multi stranded wires close to each other but not in contact.
Is this electric arc dangerous? The answer depends on the AC frequency and the power involved. (credit: Khimich Alex, Wikimedia Commons)

Section summary

  • The two types of electric hazards are thermal (excessive power) and shock (current through a person).
  • Shock severity is determined by current, path, duration, and AC frequency.
  • [link] lists shock hazards as a function of current.
  • [link] graphs the threshold current for two hazards as a function of frequency.

Conceptual questions

Using an ohmmeter, a student measures the resistance between various points on his body. He finds that the resistance between two points on the same finger is about the same as the resistance between two points on opposite hands—both are several hundred thousand ohms. Furthermore, the resistance decreases when more skin is brought into contact with the probes of the ohmmeter. Finally, there is a dramatic drop in resistance (to a few thousand ohms) when the skin is wet. Explain these observations and their implications regarding skin and internal resistance of the human body.

What are the two major hazards of electricity?

Why isn’t a short circuit a shock hazard?

What determines the severity of a shock? Can you say that a certain voltage is hazardous without further information?

An electrified needle is used to burn off warts, with the circuit being completed by having the patient sit on a large butt plate. Why is this plate large?

Some surgery is performed with high-voltage electricity passing from a metal scalpel through the tissue being cut. Considering the nature of electric fields at the surface of conductors, why would you expect most of the current to flow from the sharp edge of the scalpel? Do you think high- or low-frequency AC is used?

Some devices often used in bathrooms, such as hairdryers, often have safety messages saying “Do not use when the bathtub or basin is full of water.” Why is this so?

We are often advised to not flick electric switches with wet hands, dry your hand first. We are also advised to never throw water on an electric fire. Why is this so?

Before working on a power transmission line, linemen will touch the line with the back of the hand as a final check that the voltage is zero. Why the back of the hand?

Why is the resistance of wet skin so much smaller than dry, and why do blood and other bodily fluids have low resistances?

Could a person on intravenous infusion (an IV) be microshock sensitive?

In view of the small currents that cause shock hazards and the larger currents that circuit breakers and fuses interrupt, how do they play a role in preventing shock hazards?

Problem exercises

(a) How much power is dissipated in a short circuit of 240-V AC through a resistance of 0 . 250 Ω size 12{0 "." "250" %OMEGA } {} ? (b) What current flows?

(a) 230 kW

(b) 960 A

What voltage is involved in a 1.44-kW short circuit through a 0 . 100 - Ω size 12{0 "." "100""-" %OMEGA } {} resistance?

Find the current through a person and identify the likely effect on her if she touches a 120-V AC source: (a) if she is standing on a rubber mat and offers a total resistance of 300 k Ω size 12{"300"" k" %OMEGA } {} ; (b) if she is standing barefoot on wet grass and has a resistance of only 4000 k Ω size 12{"4000"" k" %OMEGA } {} .

(a) 0.400 mA, no effect

(b) 26.7 mA, muscular contraction for duration of the shock (can't let go)

While taking a bath, a person touches the metal case of a radio. The path through the person to the drainpipe and ground has a resistance of 4000 Ω size 12{"4000" %OMEGA } {} . What is the smallest voltage on the case of the radio that could cause ventricular fibrillation?

Foolishly trying to fish a burning piece of bread from a toaster with a metal butter knife, a man comes into contact with 120-V AC. He does not even feel it since, luckily, he is wearing rubber-soled shoes. What is the minimum resistance of the path the current follows through the person?

1 . 20 × 10 5 Ω size 12{1 "." "20"´"10" rSup { size 8{5} } %OMEGA } {}

(a) During surgery, a current as small as 20.0 μA size 12{"20" "." 0 μ"A"} {} applied directly to the heart may cause ventricular fibrillation. If the resistance of the exposed heart is 300 Ω size 12{"300" %OMEGA } {} , what is the smallest voltage that poses this danger? (b) Does your answer imply that special electrical safety precautions are needed?

(a) What is the resistance of a 220-V AC short circuit that generates a peak power of 96.8 kW? (b) What would the average power be if the voltage was 120 V AC?

(a) 1 . 00 Ω size 12{1 "." "00" %OMEGA } {}

(b) 14.4 kW

A heart defibrillator passes 10.0 A through a patient’s torso for 5.00 ms in an attempt to restore normal beating. (a) How much charge passed? (b) What voltage was applied if 500 J of energy was dissipated? (c) What was the path’s resistance? (d) Find the temperature increase caused in the 8.00 kg of affected tissue.

Integrated Concepts

A short circuit in a 120-V appliance cord has a 0 . 500 - Ω size 12{0 "." "500""-" %OMEGA } {} resistance. Calculate the temperature rise of the 2.00 g of surrounding materials, assuming their specific heat capacity is 0.200 cal/g ⋅º C size 12{0 "." "200"" cal/g" cdot °C} {} and that it takes 0.0500 s for a circuit breaker to interrupt the current. Is this likely to be damaging?

Temperature increases 860º C size 12{"860"°C} {} . It is very likely to be damaging.

Construct Your Own Problem

Consider a person working in an environment where electric currents might pass through her body. Construct a problem in which you calculate the resistance of insulation needed to protect the person from harm. Among the things to be considered are the voltage to which the person might be exposed, likely body resistance (dry, wet, …), and acceptable currents (safe but sensed, safe and unfelt, …).

Questions & Answers

where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Physics of the world around us. OpenStax CNX. May 21, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11797/1.1
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