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Section summary

  • Electric current I size 12{I } {} is the rate at which charge flows, given by
    I = Δ Q Δ t ,
    where Δ Q is the amount of charge passing through an area in time Δ t .
  • The direction of conventional current is taken as the direction in which positive charge moves.
  • The SI unit for current is the ampere (A), where 1 A = 1 C/s. size 12{1" A "=" 1 C/s."} {}
  • Current is the flow of free charges, such as electrons and ions.
  • Drift velocity v d size 12{v rSub { size 8{d} } } {} is the average speed at which these charges move.
  • Current I size 12{I } {} is proportional to drift velocity v d size 12{v rSub { size 8{d} } } {} , as expressed in the relationship I = nqAv d size 12{I = ital "nqAv" rSub { size 8{d} } } {} . Here, I size 12{I } {} is the current through a wire of cross-sectional area A size 12{A} {} . The wire’s material has a free-charge density n size 12{n} {} , and each carrier has charge q size 12{q} {} and a drift velocity v d size 12{v rSub { size 8{d} } } {} .
  • Electrical signals travel at speeds about 10 12 size 12{"10" rSup { size 8{"12"} } } {} times greater than the drift velocity of free electrons.

Conceptual questions

Can a wire carry a current and still be neutral—that is, have a total charge of zero? Explain.

Car batteries are rated in ampere-hours ( A h size 12{A cdot h} {} ). To what physical quantity do ampere-hours correspond (voltage, charge, . . .), and what relationship do ampere-hours have to energy content?

If two different wires having identical cross-sectional areas carry the same current, will the drift velocity be higher or lower in the better conductor? Explain in terms of the equation v d = I nqA size 12{v rSub { size 8{d} } = { {I} over { ital "nqA"} } } {} , by considering how the density of charge carriers n size 12{n} {} relates to whether or not a material is a good conductor.

Why are two conducting paths from a voltage source to an electrical device needed to operate the device?

In cars, one battery terminal is connected to the metal body. How does this allow a single wire to supply current to electrical devices rather than two wires?

Why isn’t a bird sitting on a high-voltage power line electrocuted? Contrast this with the situation in which a large bird hits two wires simultaneously with its wings.


What is the current in milliamperes produced by the solar cells of a pocket calculator through which 4.00 C of charge passes in 4.00 h?

0.278 mA

A total of 600 C of charge passes through a flashlight in 0.500 h. What is the average current?

What is the current when a typical static charge of 0 . 250 μ C size 12{0 "." "250" mC} {} moves from your finger to a metal doorknob in 1.00 μ s size 12{1 "." "00" ms} {} ?

0.250 A

Find the current when 2.00 nC jumps between your comb and hair over a 0 . 500 - μ s size 12{0 "." "500"-μs} {} time interval.

A large lightning bolt had a 20,000-A current and moved 30.0 C of charge. What was its duration?


The 200-A current through a spark plug moves 0.300 mC of charge. How long does the spark last?

(a) A defibrillator sends a 6.00-A current through the chest of a patient by applying a 10,000-V potential as in the figure below. What is the resistance of the path? (b) The defibrillator paddles make contact with the patient through a conducting gel that greatly reduces the path resistance. Discuss the difficulties that would ensue if a larger voltage were used to produce the same current through the patient, but with the path having perhaps 50 times the resistance. (Hint: The current must be about the same, so a higher voltage would imply greater power. Use this equation for power: P = I 2 R size 12{P = I rSup { size 8{2} } R} {} .)

Figure represents a defibrillation unit used on a patient. The circuit is also represented. It shows a capacitor driving a current through the chest of a patient. The opposite plates of the capacitor are marked as positive Q and negative Q. The direction of current in the connecting wires from the capacitor to the defibrillation unit is shown in a clockwise direction with an arrow on the wire, and the direction of electrons is shown opposite to this direction with an arrow.
The capacitor in a defibrillation unit drives a current through the heart of a patient.

(a) 1 . 67 k Ω size 12{1 "." "67"" k" %OMEGA } {}

(b) If a 50 times larger resistance existed, keeping the current about the same, the power would be increased by a factor of about 50 (based on the equation P = I 2 R size 12{P = I rSup { size 8{2} } R} {} ), causing much more energy to be transferred to the skin, which could cause serious burns. The gel used reduces the resistance, and therefore reduces the power transferred to the skin.

During open-heart surgery, a defibrillator can be used to bring a patient out of cardiac arrest. The resistance of the path is 5 00 Ω size 12{5"00 " %OMEGA } {} and a 10.0-mA current is needed. What voltage should be applied?

(a) A defibrillator passes 12.0 A of current through the torso of a person for 0.0100 s. How much charge moves? (b) How many electrons pass through the wires connected to the patient? (See figure two problems earlier.)

(a) 0.120 C

(b) 7 . 50 × 10 17 electrons size 12{7 "." "50"´"10" rSup { size 8{"17"} } " electrons"} {}

A clock battery wears out after moving 10,000 C of charge through the clock at a rate of 0.500 mA. (a) How long did the clock run? (b) How many electrons per second flowed?

The batteries of a submerged non-nuclear submarine supply 1000 A at full speed ahead. How long does it take to move Avogadro’s number ( 6 . 02 × 10 23 size 12{6 "." "02"´"10" rSup { size 8{"23"} } } {} ) of electrons at this rate?

96.3 s

Electron guns are used in X-ray tubes. The electrons are accelerated through a relatively large voltage and directed onto a metal target, producing X-rays. (a) How many electrons per second strike the target if the current is 0.500 mA? (b) What charge strikes the target in 0.750 s?

A large cyclotron directs a beam of He ++ size 12{"He" rSup { size 8{"++"} } } {} nuclei onto a target with a beam current of 0.250 mA. (a) How many He ++ size 12{"He" rSup { size 8{"++"} } } {} nuclei per second is this? (b) How long does it take for 1.00 C to strike the target? (c) How long before 1.00 mol of He ++ size 12{"He" rSup { size 8{"++"} } } {} nuclei strike the target?

(a) 7.81 × 10 14 He ++ nuclei/s

(b) 4.00 × 10 3 s

(c) 7.71 × 10 8 s

Repeat the above example on [link] , but for a wire made of silver and given there is one free electron per silver atom.

Using the results of the above example on [link] , find the drift velocity in a copper wire of twice the diameter and carrying 20.0 A.

1 . 13 × 10 4 m/s size 12{-1 "." "13"´"10" rSup { size 8{-4} } " m/s"} {}

A 14-gauge copper wire has a diameter of 1.628 mm. What magnitude current flows when the drift velocity is 1.00 mm/s? (See above example on [link] for useful information.)

SPEAR, a storage ring about 72.0 m in diameter at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (closed in 2009), has a 20.0-A circulating beam of electrons that are moving at nearly the speed of light. (See [link] .) How many electrons are in the beam?

The circuit shows a doughnut shaped storage ring called SPEAR. The cross sections of ring are marked as A and are represented as dotted circular sections. The diameter of storage ring as measured between diametrically opposite cross sections on both ends is seventy two meters. The current in the ring is given as twenty amps. The direction of current I is shown opposite to the direction of movement of electrons e using arrows.
Electrons circulating in the storage ring called SPEAR constitute a 20.0-A current. Because they travel close to the speed of light, each electron completes many orbits in each second.

9 . 42 × 10 13 electrons size 12{9 "." "42"´"10" rSup { size 8{"13"} } " electrons"} {}

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, General physics ii phy2202ca. OpenStax CNX. Jul 05, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11538/1.2
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