Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A mains cable (International English) or power cord (American English) is cable that temporarily connects an electrical appliance to an electrical power source. The term is generally used for cables connecting to a single-phase alternating current power source at "mains voltage" (100 to 240 volts, depending on the location). The terms power cable, mains lead or flex are also used. The term cord set is also used to distinguish those cords that include connectors molded to the cord at each end.
American, Canadian or Japanese power cords tend to be bulkier than the mains cables used in the rest of the world, because of the higher currents required to deliver the same power (watts) at 110 V compared with 230 V.
Power cables may be either fixed or detachable from the appliance. In the case of detachable leads, the appliance end of the power cord has a socket (female connector) rather than a plug (male connector) to link it to the appliance, to avoid the dangers from having a live protruding pin. Cords may also have twist-locking features, or other attachments to prevent accidental disconnection at one or both ends.
Common types of detachable power cable have appliance-side connectors such as the IEC 60320 C13 sometimes colloquially known as an "IEC connector" or "IBM plug" (commonly used for higher current appliances where an earth or ground connection is required) and IEC 60320 C7 commonly used for low-current applications such as an power supply inlet for use with a laptop computer. The IEC C7 is also known as a "figure-of-eight lead" (connecting by two small round pins, with round insulating bushings; the connector has a figure-of-eight cross section).
IEC power cables come in high-temperature and low-temperature variants, as well as various current capacities. The connectors have slightly different shapes to ensure that it is not possible to substitute a cable with a lower temperature or current rating, but that it is possible to use an over-rated cable. Cords also have different types of exterior jackets available to accommodate environmental variables such as moisture, temperature, oils, sunlight, flexibility, and heavy wear. For example, a heating appliance may come with a cord designed to withstand accidental contact with heated surfaces.
Note that the same types of connectors are used with both 110 V and 230 V power cables, so care must be used when moving appliances between countries with different voltage standards — substituting a power cord that matches local power outlets will result in an incorrect voltage being applied to the appliance or equipment. Unless explicitly labelled as capable of handling local voltages, this is very likely to damage or destroy the appliance.
- Alternating current (AC)
- Domestic AC power plugs & sockets
- Chart of plugs for each country
- Extension cord, extension lead
- Power cable
- Power strip
- Power supply
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