An electric heater is a device that converts electricity into heat. A commercial version typically produces infrared radiation which is converted into heat when it strikes an absorbing surface. This type of heater may also be known as a space heater because it's designed to heat a specific area, especially when the air itself is cold. You can demonstrate this principle by making a very basic electric heater from common materials.

Step 1

Cut two lengths of electrical wire with the wire stripper. Strip off approximately 2 cm of insulation from each of the four ends with the wire stripper.

Step 2

Tape one end of a wire to the negative terminal of the battery with electrical tape. Likewise, tape an end of the other wire to the battery's positive terminal.

Step 3

Connect each of the free ends of the wires to an alligator clip. Take a handful of steel wool and shape it into a long cylindrical shape. Pull the strands apart slightly to ensure they're only loosely packed together. Place the steel wool in a ceramic plate.

Step 4

Fasten an alligator clip on each end of the cylinder of steel wool. The steel wool should begin to heat up and may even produce smoke.

Step 5

Compare this demonstration to a commercial electric heater. A basic commercial heater may use a heating element that consists of several coils (filaments) of thin wire to provide a circuit with high resistance and a high surface area. The resistance is carefully chosen so that's high enough to produce a large amount of heat but not high enough to melt the wires. Furthermore, the coils of wire are typically enclosed in a half cylinder with a reflective surface that concentrates the heat and directs it outwards.