What could taste better than a fresh, crisp piece of buttered toast to start your morning?
If you hate standing by the stove waiting for your bread to turn brown, an automatic electric toaster could be the ideal thing for you.
You probably already know that a toaster uses electricity to cook your bread within minutes.
But do you understand how the electricity that flows into the toaster gets converted into an entirely different kind of energy?
An electric toaster receives electrical energy from the power outlet and quickly transforms it into heat.
If you want to cook your toast quickly, you will need a toaster that emits as much heat as possible each second.
According to the laws of physics, for that to happen, your toaster needs to consume the maximum amount of electrical power per second.
Let’s have a deeper look into what happens inside the toaster.
From Electricity to Heat Energy
Heat is one kind of energy, and electricity is another.
You cannot make a toast directly by putting a slice of bread on top of a battery that is a source of electricity.
But you can make toast with electricity if you use an electric toaster which converts electrical energy into heat that does the toasting.
If you have ever looked inside a toaster through the slots while it is turned on.
You will have noticed panels of glowing red wires facing the bread.
When electricity runs through these wires, they get very hot and radiate their heat towards the bread.
Energy is transferred from one end to another when electricity passes through a wire.
You can visualize the movement of energy like water flowing through a pipe.
The electrical energy is carried through the wire by electrons, which are the tiny particles surrounding the atoms of metal that make up the wire.
As the electricity flows, the electrons move from the negative to the positive terminal of the wire.
While colliding with one another and with the atoms in the wire, emitting heat in the process.
The greater the electric current and the thinner the wire, the more collisions occur, and more heat is generated.
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From Electricity to Light Energy
Heat isn’t the only energy produced when electricity flows through a wire.
If the wire is thin enough, its temperature may rise so high that it will start glowing red hot, giving off light.
So what is happening here?
The atoms of the metal wire absorb some energy as heat, become unstable, and then give off some of the power as light to become stable again.
Old-school electric lamps use this phenomenon to produce their light.
Inside, their glass bulbs contain a filament made from a fragile piece of coiled wire.
When electricity runs through the filament, it becomes boiling and produces heat and light.
More than 90% of the energy is wasted as heat, and only 5-10% converts it into helpful light.
In a toaster, the opposite is true.
As we are more interested in producing heat for making toasts, the small quantity of light produced by the glowing filaments is considered waste energy.
Automatic power switch-off mechanism
The first-generation electric toasters could not switch themselves off and were entirely manual.
Automatic toasters were developed later, which use either a timer, a thermostat, or a photoelectric cell to switch itself off when the bread is done.
It can be reasonably assumed that most people use the same kind of bread, sliced similarly.
Their toast will be made for about the same duration every time.
So, some toasters use a simple electronic timing circuit to switch off the heating element after a certain period.
Increasing the timer setting in this kind of toaster elongates the cooking time.
A thermostat is an electrical-cum-mechanical device.
It automatically controls an electric circuit by switching it on or off to keep something at a reasonably constant temperature.
It is also used in a toaster to switch off when the bread is toasted correctly.
A thermostat consists of a fused bimetallic strip (two different metal strips) connected with the toaster’s heating element.
As the temperature increases, the metals start expanding by different amounts.
Gradually the thermostat starts bending into a curve.
Breaking off the circuit upon reaching the right temperature and switching off the power supply to the toaster’s heating element.
A photoelectric cell is an electronic device that produces electricity according to the amount of light that falls on it.
This toaster has a light source, which shines at an angle toward the bread.
As the toast slowly cooks, changing color from white to brown, the light reflected off decreases in intensity.
The photocell placed nearby catches the reflected light, and when the right intensity level is reached, it switches the electric supply off.
The Toaster’s Elements: What are the toaster’s essential components?
Toasters are constructed using several complex parts, including a
- Heating element
- Bread rack
- Hat sensor
- Timing mechanism
- Trip plate
- Electromagnet and browning control
Most of the parts are made using metal alloys and molded plastics.
Nuts, bolts, screws, and washers are used to assemble the parts.
For making heat-resistant plastic cases, flame retardants are added to the petroleum compounds of plastic.
To make a metal casing, aluminum is generally used.
Mica is also used for making fireproof sheets that hold the heating elements in place.
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Summing it up
Toasters can get very hot, so it is essential to keep combustible items such as paper towels or flour away from the toaster.
Do not keep the toaster near a water source as electricity plus water make the perfect recipe for disaster.
Never insert any tool or your finger inside a toaster, as you risk severe electrocution.
Make sure that the crumb tray is cleaned frequently.
These steps will help prevent toaster fires and keep your toaster working properly for a long.