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Drift velocity

Electrical signals are known to move very rapidly. Telephone conversations carried by currents in wires cover large distances without noticeable delays. Lights come on as soon as a switch is flicked. Most electrical signals carried by currents travel at speeds on the order of 10 8 m/s size 12{"10" rSup { size 8{8} } `"m/s"} {} , a significant fraction of the speed of light. Interestingly, the individual charges that make up the current move much more slowly on average, typically drifting at speeds on the order of 10 4 m/s size 12{"10" rSup { size 8{ - 4} } `"m/s"} {} . How do we reconcile these two speeds, and what does it tell us about standard conductors?

The high speed of electrical signals results from the fact that the force between charges acts rapidly at a distance. Thus, when a free charge is forced into a wire, as in [link] , the incoming charge pushes other charges ahead of it, which in turn push on charges farther down the line. The density of charge in a system cannot easily be increased, and so the signal is passed on rapidly. The resulting electrical shock wave moves through the system at nearly the speed of light. To be precise, this rapidly moving signal or shock wave is a rapidly propagating change in electric field.

Negatively charged electrons move through a conducting wire. Two electrons are shown entering the wire from one end, and two electrons are shown leaving the wire at the other end. The direction of movement of charge is indicated by arrows along the length of the wire toward the right. Some electrons are shown inside the wire.
When charged particles are forced into this volume of a conductor, an equal number are quickly forced to leave. The repulsion between like charges makes it difficult to increase the number of charges in a volume. Thus, as one charge enters, another leaves almost immediately, carrying the signal rapidly forward.

Good conductors have large numbers of free charges in them. In metals, the free charges are free electrons. [link] shows how free electrons move through an ordinary conductor. The distance that an individual electron can move between collisions with atoms or other electrons is quite small. The electron paths thus appear nearly random, like the motion of atoms in a gas. But there is an electric field in the conductor that causes the electrons to drift in the direction shown (opposite to the field, since they are negative). The drift velocity     v d size 12{v rSub { size 8{d} } } {} is the average velocity of the free charges. Drift velocity is quite small, since there are so many free charges. If we have an estimate of the density of free electrons in a conductor, we can calculate the drift velocity for a given current. The larger the density, the lower the velocity required for a given current.

The diagram shows a section of a conducting wire. A free electron is shown in the wire, and the path of the electron is shown as zigzag arrows along the length of the wire. The path is shown beginning at one end of the wire and ending at the other end. The drift velocity, v sub d, is indicated by an arrow toward the right, opposite the direction of the electric field E and the current I.
Free electrons moving in a conductor make many collisions with other electrons and atoms. The path of one electron is shown. The average velocity of the free charges is called the drift velocity, v d size 12{v rSub { size 8{d} } } {} , and it is in the direction opposite to the electric field for electrons. The collisions normally transfer energy to the conductor, requiring a constant supply of energy to maintain a steady current.

Conduction of electricity and heat

Good electrical conductors are often good heat conductors, too. This is because large numbers of free electrons can carry electrical current and can transport thermal energy.

The free-electron collisions transfer energy to the atoms of the conductor. The electric field does work in moving the electrons through a distance, but that work does not increase the kinetic energy (nor speed, therefore) of the electrons. The work is transferred to the conductor’s atoms, possibly increasing temperature. Thus a continuous power input is required to keep a current flowing. An exception, of course, is found in superconductors, for reasons we shall explore in a later chapter. Superconductors can have a steady current without a continual supply of energy—a great energy savings. In contrast, the supply of energy can be useful, such as in a lightbulb filament. The supply of energy is necessary to increase the temperature of the tungsten filament, so that the filament glows.

Questions & Answers

what is Andromeda
smart Reply
what is velocity
Fati Reply
displacement per unit time
Murlidhar
the ratec of displacement over time
Jamie
the rate of displacement over time
Jamie
the rate of displacement over time
Jamie
did you need it right now
Pathani
up to tomorrow
Santosh
i need a description and derivation of kinetic theory of gas
Santosh
pls the sum of change in kinetic and potential energy is always what ?
Faith
i need a description and derivation of kinetic theory of gas
Santosh
did you need it right now
Pathani
A few grains of table salt were put in a cup of cold water kept at constant temperature and left undisturbed. eventually all the water tasted salty. this is due to?
Faith Reply
Aunt Faith,please i am thinking the dissolution here from the word "solution" exposed the grains of salt to be dissolved in the water.Thankyou
Junior
dissolution please
Junior
Aunt Faith,please i am thinking the dissolution here from the word "solution" exposed the grains of salt to be dissolved in the water.Thankyou
Junior
it is either diffusion or osmosis. just confused
Faith
due to solvation....
Pathani
what is solvation pls
Faith
water molecule surround the salt molecules . solute solute attraction break in the same manner solvent solvent interaction also break. as a result solute and solvent attraction took place.
Pathani
okay thanks
Faith
my pleasure
Pathani
what is solvation pls
Faith
water act as a solvent and salt act as solute
Pathani
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Faith
its ok
Pathani
due to solvation....
Pathani
water molecule surround the salt molecules . solute solute attraction break in the same manner solvent solvent interaction also break. as a result solute and solvent attraction took place.
Pathani
what is magnetism
Eze Reply
physical phenomena arising from force caused by magnets
Mohammad
is the phenomenon of attracting magnetic substance like iron, cobalt etc.
Faith
what is heat
John Reply
Heat is a form of energy where molecules move
saran
Can you please help me with some questions
Janet Reply
topic-- question
Salman
I know this is unrelated to physics, but how do I get the MCQs and essay to work. they arent clickable.
Jake Reply
20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of a monobasic acid HA and 20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of NaOH are mixed in a calorimeter and a temperature rise of 274K is observed. If the heat capacity of the calorimeter is 160J/K, calculate the enthalpy of neutralization of the acid.(SHCw=4.2J/g/K) Formula. (ms*cs+C)*T
Lilian Reply
why is a body moving at a constant speed able to accelerate
Lilian Reply
20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of a monobasic acid HA and 20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of NaOH are mixed in a calorimeter and a temperature rise of 274K is observed. If the heat capacity of the calorimeter is 160J/K, calculate the enthalpy of neutralization of the acid.(SHCw=4.2J/g/K) Formula. (ms*cs+C)*T
Lilian
because it changes only direction and the speed is kept constant
Justice
Why is the sky blue...?
Star Reply
It's filtered light from the 2 forms of radiation emitted from the sun. It's mainly filtered UV rays. There's a theory titled Scatter Theory that covers this topic
Mike
A heating coil of resistance 30π is connected to a 240v supply for 5min to boil a quantity of water in a vessel of heat capacity 200jk. If the initial temperature of water is 20°c and it specific heat capacity is 4200jkgk calculate the mass of water in a vessel
fasawe Reply
A thin equi convex lens is placed on a horizontal plane mirror and a pin held 20 cm vertically above the lens concise in position with its own image the space between the undersurface of d lens and the mirror is filled with water (refractive index =1•33)and then to concise with d image d pin has to
Azummiri Reply
Be raised until its distance from d lens is 27cm find d radius of curvature
Azummiri
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FlAsH Reply
A monkey throws a coconut straight upwards from a coconut tree with a velocity of 10 ms-1. The coconut tree is 30 m high. Calculate the maximum height of the coconut from the top of the coconut tree? Can someone answer my question
Fatinizzah Reply
v2 =u2 - 2gh 02 =10x10 - 2x9.8xh h = 100 ÷ 19.6 answer = 30 - h.
Ramonyai
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sam Reply
Practice Key Terms 3

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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