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No charge is actually created or destroyed when charges are separated as we have been discussing. Rather, existing charges are moved about. In fact, in all situations the total amount of charge is always constant. This universally obeyed law of nature is called the law of conservation of charge    .

Law of conservation of charge

Total charge is constant in any process.

In more exotic situations, such as in particle accelerators, mass, Δ m size 12{Δm} {} , can be created from energy in the amount Δ m = E c 2 size 12{Δm= { {E} over {c rSup { size 8{2} } } } } {} . Sometimes, the created mass is charged, such as when an electron is created. Whenever a charged particle is created, another having an opposite charge is always created along with it, so that the total charge created is zero. Usually, the two particles are “matter-antimatter” counterparts. For example, an antielectron would usually be created at the same time as an electron. The antielectron has a positive charge (it is called a positron), and so the total charge created is zero. (See [link] .) All particles have antimatter counterparts with opposite signs. When matter and antimatter counterparts are brought together, they completely annihilate one another. By annihilate, we mean that the mass of the two particles is converted to energy E , again obeying the relationship Δ m = E c 2 size 12{Δm= { {E} over {c rSup { size 8{2} } } } } {} . Since the two particles have equal and opposite charge, the total charge is zero before and after the annihilation; thus, total charge is conserved.

Making connections: conservation laws

Only a limited number of physical quantities are universally conserved. Charge is one—energy, momentum, and angular momentum are others. Because they are conserved, these physical quantities are used to explain more phenomena and form more connections than other, less basic quantities. We find that conserved quantities give us great insight into the rules followed by nature and hints to the organization of nature. Discoveries of conservation laws have led to further discoveries, such as the weak nuclear force and the quark substructure of protons and other particles.

Here energy is shown by a vector. Initially electrostatic charge q tot is equal to zero. Now energy gets converted into matter and creates one electron and antielectron pair but final electrostatic charge is equal to zero so change in mass delta m is equal to two m e, which is equal to E divided by c square. (b) In this figure, Electron and antielectron are colliding with each other. The electrostatic charge q tot before collision is zero and after collision it will remain zero.
(a) When enough energy is present, it can be converted into matter. Here the matter created is an electron–antielectron pair. ( m e size 12{m rSub { size 8{e} } } {} is the electron’s mass.) The total charge before and after this event is zero. (b) When matter and antimatter collide, they annihilate each other; the total charge is conserved at zero before and after the annihilation.

The law of conservation of charge is absolute—it has never been observed to be violated. Charge, then, is a special physical quantity, joining a very short list of other quantities in nature that are always conserved. Other conserved quantities include energy, momentum, and angular momentum.

Phet explorations: balloons and static electricity

Why does a balloon stick to your sweater? Rub a balloon on a sweater, then let go of the balloon and it flies over and sticks to the sweater. View the charges in the sweater, balloons, and the wall.

Balloons and Static Electricity

Section summary

  • There are only two types of charge, which we call positive and negative.
  • Like charges repel, unlike charges attract, and the force between charges decreases with the square of the distance.
  • The vast majority of positive charge in nature is carried by protons, while the vast majority of negative charge is carried by electrons.
  • The electric charge of one electron is equal in magnitude and opposite in sign to the charge of one proton.
  • An ion is an atom or molecule that has nonzero total charge due to having unequal numbers of electrons and protons.
  • The SI unit for charge is the coulomb (C), with protons and electrons having charges of opposite sign but equal magnitude; the magnitude of this basic charge q e size 12{ lline q rSub { size 8{e} } rline} {} is
    q e = 1.60 × 10 19 C . size 12{ lline q rSub { size 8{e} } rline =1 "." "60" times "10" rSup { size 8{ - "19"} } C} {}
  • Whenever charge is created or destroyed, equal amounts of positive and negative are involved.
  • Most often, existing charges are separated from neutral objects to obtain some net charge.
  • Both positive and negative charges exist in neutral objects and can be separated by rubbing one object with another. For macroscopic objects, negatively charged means an excess of electrons and positively charged means a depletion of electrons.
  • The law of conservation of charge ensures that whenever a charge is created, an equal charge of the opposite sign is created at the same time.

Conceptual questions

There are very large numbers of charged particles in most objects. Why, then, don’t most objects exhibit static electricity?

Why do most objects tend to contain nearly equal numbers of positive and negative charges?


Common static electricity involves charges ranging from nanocoulombs to microcoulombs. (a) How many electrons are needed to form a charge of –2.00 nC (b) How many electrons must be removed from a neutral object to leave a net charge of 0.500 µ C ?

(a) 1.25 × 10 10

(b) 3.13 × 10 12

If 1 . 80 × 10 20 size 12{1 "." "80" times "10" rSup { size 8{"20"} } } {} electrons move through a pocket calculator during a full day’s operation, how many coulombs of charge moved through it?

To start a car engine, the car battery moves 3 . 75 × 10 21 size 12{3 "." "75" times "10" rSup { size 8{"21"} } } {} electrons through the starter motor. How many coulombs of charge were moved?

-600 C

A certain lightning bolt moves 40.0 C of charge. How many fundamental units of charge q e size 12{ lline q rSub { size 8{e} } rline} {} is this?

Questions & Answers

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
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian 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, College physics (engineering physics 2, tuas). OpenStax CNX. May 08, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11649/1.2
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