Terms of the Trade: What is a Heating Element?

oven with bright heating element turned on

Heating elements are pieces of metal or compound material that conduct electricity to generate heat for cooking or warmth. They're the key ingredient in heating systems and ovens, as well as myriad advanced devices used in commercial engineering and scientific research.

As electrical energy flows through the element, it meets resistance from the material's internal structure, regardless of the current's direction. This friction causes heat, which radiates off the object, warming nearby air.

Metal heating elements are common in home devices like electric ovens and space heaters. These popular items are typically made from an 80/20 mix of Nickel and Chromium, but a wide range of different compounds can generate the necessary resistance to serve as heating elements, including ceramics, platinum, tungsten, and even some kinds of rubber.

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