MLA Citation: Bloomfield, Louis A. "Question 848"
How Everything Works 17 Jul 2018. 17 Jul 2018 <http://howeverythingworks.org/print1.php?QNum=848>.
848. How does a crystal radio work?
A crystal radio uses a crystal diode to detect tiny fluctuating currents in its antenna system. When a radio wave passes across an antenna, the wave's electric field pushes electric charges up and down the antenna. The crystal diode acts as a one-way gate that allows some of this moving charge to flow onto another wire and then prevents it from returning to the antenna. Since the charge can't return to the antenna, it flows elsewhere—passing through a sensitive earphone and creating sound. An AM radio station encodes sound as changes in the intensity (or amplitude) of the radio wave. As the radio wave's intensity fluctuates, the amount of electric charge flowing through the earpiece of the crystal radio also fluctuates and you hear sound.

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