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A question regardingelectricity's nature

  1. Dec 30, 2009 #1
    so my "professional" high school physics teacher began our intro with electricity by telling us to do notes...and failed to answer basic physics questions so here is the product of my curiosity

    It states that, electricity is produced by the electron transfer between objects in a basic sense. My question is...where do these electrons come from? i mean...sure it says atoms, but like..don't atoms hold their electrons tightly? this is the entire basis of chemistry that electron transfers between atoms influence reactions.. so in a way...when, for example friction, we rub things to produce a charge, we separate atoms and electrons. Doesn't this degenerate the substance due to the loss/separation of electrons and cause reactions between other atoms in the surroundings? because by this rationale, the substance would eventually degenerate into nothing and disappear..

    off coarse none of what i described actually happens in nature... i think...so what is the truth about how it works? feel free to include insulators and conductors if necessary

    do you atleast get the general idea of what i mean?

    Thanks alot.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 30, 2009 #2


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    Gold Member

    Good Questions!

    Some atoms hold them more tightly than others. This is one of the fundamental differences between conductors like copper, and insulators like plastic. The valence electrons in conductors are practically "free electrons" (as in free from being bound to the nucleus); it doesn't take much energy to move these electrons.

    Atoms have to follow weird rules from quantum mechanics (which is the basis for the mechanism of chemical reactions) that can help explain why some substances are conductors and other are insulators.

    The molecules don't became unstable in a nuclear way; they become ions. The electrons used for covalent and ionic bonds that hold the atoms together are not the "free electrons" that are involved in electricity. Those electrons are "held tightly", so the molecule remains in tact.
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