The force acts on the charged particles themselves, hence charge has a tendency to spread itself as evenly as possible over a conducting surface. The magnitude of the electromagnetic force, whether attractive or repulsive, is given by Coulombs law, which relates the force to the product of the charges and has an inverse square relation to the distance between them.The electromagnetic force is very strong, second only in strength to the strong interaction, but unlike that force it operates over all distances.In comparison with the much weaker gravitational force, the electromagnetic force pushing two electrons apart is 1042 times that of the gravitational attraction pulling them together.
Study has shown that the origin of charge is from certain types of subatomic particles which have the property of electric charge. Electric charge gives rise to and interacts with the electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature. The most familiar carriers of electrical charge are the electron and proton. Experiment has shown charge to be a conserved quantity, that is, the net charge within an isolated system will always remain constant regardless of any changes taking place within that system.within the system, charge may be transferred between bodies, either by direct contact, or by passing along a conducting material, such as a wire.2 5 The informal term static electricity refers to the net presence or imbalance of charge on a body, usually caused when dissimilar materials are rubbed together, transferring charge from one to the other.
The charge on electrons and protons is opposite in sign, hence an amount of charge may be expressed as being either negative or positive. By convention, the charge carried by electrons is deemed negative, and that by protons positive, a custom that originated with the work of Benjamin Franklin.The amount of charge is usually given the symbol Q and expressed in coulombs;each electron carries the same charge of approximately ?1.6022?10?19 coulomb. The proton has a charge that is equal and opposite, and thus +1.6022?10?19 coulomb. Charge is possessed not just by matter, but also by antimatter, each antiparticle bearing an equal and opposite charge to its corresponding particle.
Charge can be measured by a number of means, an early instrument being the gold leaf electroscope, which although still in use for classroom demonstrations, has been superseded by the electronic electrometer.
By historical convention, a positive current is defined as having the same direction of flow as any positive charge it contains, or to flow from the most positive part of a circuit to the most negative part. Current defined in this manner is called conventional current. The motion of negatively charged electrons around an electric circuit, one of the most familiar forms of current, is thus deemed positive in the opposite direction to that of the electrons. However, depending on the conditions, an electric current can consist of a flow of charged particles in either direction, or even in both directions at once. The positive to negative convention is widely used to simplify this situation.The process by which electric current passes through a material is termed electrical conduction, and its nature varies with that of the charged particles and the material through which they are travelling. Examples of electric currents include metallic conduction, where electrons flow through a conductor such as metal, and electrolysis, where ions charged atoms flow through liquids, or through plasmas such as electrical sparks. While the particles themselves can move quite slowly, sometimes with an average drift velocity only fractions of a millimetre per second,the electric field that drives them itself propagates at close to the speed of light, enabling electrical signals to pass rapidly along wires.
Current causes several observable effects, which historically were the means of recognising its presence. That water could be decomposed by the current from a voltaic pile was discovered by Nicholson and Carlisle in 1800, a process now known as electrolysis. Their work was greatly expanded upon by Michael Faraday in 1833. Current through a resistance causes localised heating, an effect James Prescott Joule studied mathematically in 1840. One of the most important discoveries relating to current was made accidentally by Hans Christian ?rsted in 1820, when, while preparing a lecture, he witnessed the current in a wire disturbing the needle of a magnetic compass.He had discovered electromagnetism, a fundamental interaction between electricity and magnetics. The level of electromagnetic emissions generated by electric arcing is high enough to produce electromagnetic interference, which can be detrimental to the workings of adjacent equipment.
In engineering or household applications, current is often described as being either direct current DC or alternating current AC. These terms refer to how the current varies in time. Direct current, as produced by example from a battery and required by most electronic devices, is a unidirectional flow from the positive part of a circuit to the negative.If, as is most common, this flow is carried by electrons, they will be travelling in the opposite direction. Alternating current is any current that reverses direction repeatedly; almost always this takes the form of a sine wave.206 207 Alternating current thus pulses back and forth within a conductor without the charge moving any net distance over time. The time averaged value of an alternating current is zero, but it delivers energy in first one direction, and then the reverse. Alternating current is affected by electrical properties that are not observed under steady state direct current, such as inductance and capacitance.223 225 These properties however can become important when circuitry is subjected to transients, such as when first energised.
Field lines emanating from a positive charge above a plane conductor An electric field generally varies in space, and its strength at any one point is defined as the force per unit charge that would be felt by a stationary, negligible charge if placed at that point.469 470 The conceptual charge, termed a test charge, must be vanishingly small to prevent its own electric field disturbing the main field and must also be stationary to prevent the effect of magnetic fields. As the electric field is defined in terms of force, and force is a vector, so it follows that an electric field is also a vector, having both magnitude and direction. Specifically, it is a vector field.
The study of electric fields created by stationary charges is called electrostatics. The field may be visualised by a set of imaginary lines whose direction at any point is the same as that of the field. This concept was introduced by Faraday, whose term lines of force still sometimes sees use. The field lines are the paths that a point positive charge would seek to make as it was forced to move within the field; they are however an imaginary concept with no physical existence, and the field permeates all the intervening space between the lines. Field lines emanating from stationary charges have several key properties first, that they originate at positive charges and terminate at negative charges; second, that they must enter any good conductor at right angles, and third, that they may never cross nor close in on themselves.
A hollow conducting body carries all its charge on its outer surface. The field is therefore zero at all places inside the body.88 This is the operating principal of the Faraday cage, a conducting metal shell which isolates its interior from outside electrical effects.
The principles of electrostatics are important when designing items of high voltage equipment. There is a finite limit to the electric field strength that may be withstood by any medium. Beyond this point, electrical breakdown occurs and an electric arc causes flashover between the charged parts. Air, for example, tends to arc across small gaps at electric field strengths which exceed 30 kV per centimetre. Over larger gaps, its breakdown strength is weaker, perhaps 1 kV per centimetre.The most visible natural occurrence of this is lightning, caused when charge becomes separated in the clouds by rising columns of air, and raises the electric field in the air to greater than it can withstand. The voltage of a large lightning cloud may be as high as 100 MV and have discharge energies as great as 250 kWh.
The field strength is greatly affected by nearby conducting objects, and it is particularly intense when it is forced to curve around sharply pointed objects. This principle is exploited in the lightning conductor, the sharp spike of which acts to encourage the lightning stroke to develop there, rather than to the building it serves to protect155.
For practical purposes, it is useful to define a common reference point to which potentials may be expressed and compared. While this could be at infinity, a much more useful reference is the Earth itself, which is assumed to be at the same potential everywhere. This reference point naturally takes the name earth or ground. Earth is assumed to be an infinite source of equal amounts of positive and negative charge, and is therefore electrically uncharged?and unchargeable.
Electric potential is a scalar quantity, that is, it has only magnitude and not direction. It may be viewed as analogous to height just as a released object will fall through a difference in heights caused by a gravitational field, so a charge will fall across the voltage caused by an electric field.As relief maps show contour lines marking points of equal height, a set of lines marking points of equal potential known as equipotentials may be drawn around an electrostatically charged object. The equipotentials cross all lines of force at right angles. They must also lie parallel to a conductors surface, otherwise this would produce a force that will move the charge carriers to even the potential of the surface. The electric field was formally defined as the force exerted per unit charge, but the concept of potential allows for a more useful and equivalent definition the electric field is the local gradient of the electric potential. Usually expressed in volts per metre, the vector direction of the field is the line of greatest slope of potential, and where the equipotentials lie closest together.