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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe an electrical current
  • Define the unit of electrical current
  • Explain the direction of current flow

Up to now, we have considered primarily static charges. When charges did move, they were accelerated in response to an electrical field created by a voltage difference. The charges lost potential energy and gained kinetic energy as they traveled through a potential difference where the electrical field did work on the charge.

Although charges do not require a material to flow through, the majority of this chapter deals with understanding the movement of charges through a material. The rate at which the charges flow past a location—that is, the amount of charge per unit time—is known as the electrical current . When charges flow through a medium, the current depends on the voltage applied, the material through which the charges flow, and the state of the material. Of particular interest is the motion of charges in a conducting wire. In previous chapters, charges were accelerated due to the force provided by an electrical field, losing potential energy and gaining kinetic energy. In this chapter, we discuss the situation of the force provided by an electrical field in a conductor, where charges lose kinetic energy to the material reaching a constant velocity, known as the “ drift velocity .” This is analogous to an object falling through the atmosphere and losing kinetic energy to the air, reaching a constant terminal velocity.

If you have ever taken a course in first aid or safety, you may have heard that in the event of electric shock, it is the current, not the voltage, which is the important factor on the severity of the shock and the amount of damage to the human body. Current is measured in units called amperes; you may have noticed that circuit breakers in your home and fuses in your car are rated in amps (or amperes). But what is the ampere and what does it measure?

Defining current and the ampere

Electrical current is defined to be the rate at which charge flows. When there is a large current present, such as that used to run a refrigerator, a large amount of charge moves through the wire in a small amount of time. If the current is small, such as that used to operate a handheld calculator, a small amount of charge moves through the circuit over a long period of time.

Electrical current

The average electrical current I is the rate at which charge flows,

I ave = Δ Q Δ t ,

where Δ Q is the amount of charge passing through a given area in time Δ t ( [link] ). The SI unit for current is the ampere (A), named for the French physicist André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836). Since I = Δ Q Δ t , we see that an ampere is defined as one coulomb of charge passing through a given area per second:

1 A 1 C s .

The instantaneous electrical current, or simply the electrical current    , is the time derivative of the charge that flows and is found by taking the limit of the average electrical current as Δ t 0 :

I = lim Δ t 0 Δ Q Δ t = d Q d t .

Most electrical appliances are rated in amperes (or amps) required for proper operation, as are fuses and circuit breakers.

Questions & Answers

what is flux
Bundi Reply
Total number of field lines crossing the surface area
Kamru
Basically flux in general is amount of anything...In Electricity and Magnetism it is the total no..of electric field lines or Magnetic field lines passing normally through the suface
prince
what is temperature change
Celine
a bottle of soft drink was removed from refrigerator and after some time, it was observed that its temperature has increased by 15 degree Celsius, what is the temperature change in degree Fahrenheit and degree Celsius
Celine
process whereby the degree of hotness of a body (or medium) changes
Salim
Q=mcΔT
Salim
where The letter "Q" is the heat transferred in an exchange in calories, "m" is the mass of the substance being heated in grams, "c" is its specific heat capacity and the static value, and "ΔT" is its change in temperature in degrees Celsius to reflect the change in temperature.
Salim
what was the temperature of the soft drink when it was removed ?
Salim
15 degree Celsius
Celine
15 degree
Celine
ok I think is just conversion
Salim
15 degree Celsius to Fahrenheit
Salim
0 degree Celsius = 32 Fahrenheit
Salim
15 degree Celsius = (15×1.8)+32 =59 Fahrenheit
Salim
I dont understand
Celine
the question said you should convert 15 degree Celsius to Fahrenheit
Salim
To convert temperatures in degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply by 1.8 (or 9/5) and add 32.
Salim
what is d final ans for Fahrenheit and Celsius
Celine
it said what is temperature change in Fahrenheit and Celsius
Celine
the 15 is already in Celsius
Salim
So the final answer for Fahrenheit is 59
Salim
what is d final ans for Fahrenheit and Celsius
Celine
what are the effects of placing a dielectric between the plates of a capacitor
Bundi Reply
increase the capacitance.
Jorge
besides increasing the capacitance, is there any?
Bundi
mechanical stiffness and small size
Jorge
why for an ideal gas internal energy is directly proportional to thermodynamics temperature?
Anne Reply
two charged particles are 8.45cm apart. They are moved and the force on each of them is found to have tripled. How far are they now?
Martin Reply
what is flux
Bundi
determining dimensional correctness
PATRICK Reply
determine dimensional correctness of,T=2π√L/g
PATRICK
somebody help me answer the question above
PATRICK
calculate the heat flow per square meter through a mineral roll insulation 5cm thick if the temperature on the two surfaces are 30degree Celsius and 20 degree Celsius respectively. thermal conduction of mineral roll is 0.04
akuribire Reply
what are the elementary compositions of a cell?
jackson Reply
poles, chemical
prabir
when a current pass through a material does the velocity varies
lovet Reply
no.
prabir
what is spin entropy ?and disorder in ferromagnetic material
Nepal Reply
diagram of an hall effect sensor
Aweda Reply
if a magnetised wire having dipole moment M is bent in the form of arc subtending angle of 45°at centre,new magnetic moment is
Pravin Reply
tell the answer
prabir
is this book for preparing IIT or neet?
jyotirmayee Reply
is it possible to increase the temperature of a gas without adding heat to it?
gurpreet Reply
I'm not sure about it, but I think it's possible. If you add some form of energy to the system, it's a possibility. Also, if you change the pression or the volume of the system, you'll increase the kinetic energy of the system, increasing the gas temperature. I don't know if I'm correct.
playdoh
For example, if you get a syringe and close the tip(sealing the air inside), and start pumping the plunger, you'll notice that it starts getting hot. Again, I'm not sure if I am correct.
playdoh
you are right for example an adiabatic process changes all variables without external energy to yield a temperature change. (Search Otto cycle)
Brad
when a current pass through a material does the velocity varies
lovet
yes at adiabatic compression temperature increase
Nepal
how to draw a diagram of a triode
Ssempala Reply
whate is fckg diagrame?
Arzoodan
why do we use integration?
Monalisa Reply
To know surfaces below graphs.
Jan
To find a Primitive function. Primitive function: a function that is the origin of another
playdoh
yes
Dharmdev
what is laps rate
Dharmdev
Г=-dT/dZ that is simply defination
Arzoodan
what is z
Dharmdev
to find the area under a graph or to accumulate .e.g. sum of momentum over time is no etic energy.
Naod
Z is alt.,dZ altv difference
Arzoodan
Practice Key Terms 5

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Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 2. OpenStax CNX. Oct 06, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12074/1.3
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