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Overview of Chapter 25:
Introduction to Electric Current
Electric current is defined as the motion of electric charge through a conductor. Conductors are materials that contain movable charged particles. In metals, the most commonly used conductors, such charged particles are electrons. The more electrons that pass through a cross section of a conductor per second, the greater the current. The conventional definition of current is
where I is the current in a conductor and Qtotal is the total charge passing through a cross section of the conductor during the time interval Δt.
The motion of free electrons in metals not subjected to an electric field is random: Even though the electrons move fairly rapidly, the net result of such motion is that Qtotal=0 (i.e., equal numbers of electrons pass through the cross section in opposite directions). However, when an electric field is imposed, the electrons continue in their random motion, but in addition, they tend to move in the direction of the force applied by the electric field.
In summary, the two conditions for electric current in a material are the presence of movable charged particles in the material and the presence of an electric field.
Quantitatively, the motion of electrons under the influence of an electric field is described by the drift speed, which tends to be much smaller than the speed of the random motion of the electrons. The number of electrons passing through a cross section of a conductor depends on the drift speed (which, in turn, is determined by both the microscopic structure of the material and the electric field) and the cross-sectional area of the conductor.
In this problem, you will be offered several conceptual questions that will help you gain an understanding of electric current in metals.
At room temperature, what is the strength of the electric field in a 12-gauge copper wire (diameter 2.05 mm ) that is needed to cause a 3.90 A current to flow?
What diameter must a copper wire have if its resistance is to be the same as that of an equal length of aluminum wire with diameter 2.44 mm ?
|Wire||Current density (A/mm2)||Diameter (mm)||Total Current (A)|
Exercise 25.1 – Enhanced – with Solution
You may want to review (Pages 817 – 820) .
For related problemsolving tips and strategies, you may want to view a Video Tutor Solution of Current density and drift velocity in a wire.
Exercise 25.7 – Enhanced – with Solution
For related problem-solving tips and strategies, you may want to view a Video Tutor Solution of Current density and drift velocity in a wire.