Current and Voltage Confusion

In summary: For example, if you have a faucet that has a low water pressure, and you turn the faucet up to full, the water will flow faster because there is more pressure pushing it through the faucet. Similarly, if you have a faucet that has a high water pressure, and you turn the faucet down to half, the water will flow slower because there is less pressure pushing it through the faucet. Q)I'm confused about the relationship between current and voltage. How can an electron have a potential amount of energy? What exactly does the battery do? Does it like 'kick' the electrons to give them more power? If so,
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Hi,

I'm a little confused as to Current and Voltage, and I was wondering if someone could tell me if my understanding is correct and/or point me to a good tutorial on current/voltage and basic electronic circuit principles. As well as some good tutorials on circuit analysis.

So this is how I understand it + my questions about it.

1) Electrons travel in a conventional circuit travel from positive to negative (although in reality they travel from negative to positive).

Q)I'm confused as to how this may affect the current/voltage output at different areas.

2) Charge is a particle (electron) that moves around a circuit. The potential amount of energy is called the voltage. And the current is the quantity of charge passing through a point.

Q)I'm confused about the relationship between current and voltage. How can an electron have a potential amount of energy? What exactly does the battery do? Does it like 'kick' the electrons to give them more power? If so, what would be an analogue for charge? I mean, what affects it... is it the width of the wire? I can't really see how a battery can increase the quantity of charge passing through a point. Also, can charge be lost? Or does it just get split up? And what happens to current when it goes to a battery... is it constant unlike voltage?

3) Another question/analogue that's been plaguing me. In a lightbulb, when the tungsten filament resist's the electrons, is it resisting the voltage, or the current?

Sorry about the large amounts of questions :(
Thanks!
 
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  • #2
1) Electrons travel in a conventional circuit travel from positive to negative (although in reality they travel from negative to positive).
exactly right. As to your question with this...im not too sure what's confusing you.

the charges that travel through the circuit from positive to negative ARE teh current. The more charges per unit time that travel through the wire, the higher the current is. In other words, current is proportional to the number of electrons that pass through a cross section of a wire.

The voltage is what "pushes" the charges across the wire. The higher the voltage drop between two points, the more "push" there is to make a charge go from one end to the other. This is why voltage is described as potential energy; the more "push" there is to get a charge from one place to another the more potential energy it has.

This kind of leads into your second question. An electron has potential energy because of the Voltage that is pushing it. Again, the higher the voltage the more it "pushes" the electrons, and the more potential energy the electron has.

A battery has 2 ends, with a potential difference across them. Because of the potential difference, it pushes a charged particle from one end to the other. The electron tries to go from the state of high potential to a state of low potential by traveling from one end of the battery to the other using the "push" created by the voltage drop along the battery.

Charge and voltage are related through Ohm's law, V = IR, V is voltage drop (depends on the battery or power source), I is the current, and R is the resistance of the wire (dependant on the wire and its properties).
So if you apply the same voltage drop across two different materials, the material with a higher resistance will have less current traveling through it.

Resistance depends on the material the wire is made of, the cross section of the wire, and the length of the wire.

Charge can not be lost. Charge physically exists in the form of electrons and protons, they are never lost or destroyed. They are however neutralized, when a proton and electron meet.

As for 3...Resistance is a physical property of a material. It is how much a wire resists the flow of charge (current) per unit voltage. So, for any given material with resistance, more current will pass through it if a higher voltage is placed at the 2 ends.
 
  • #3
Let me give it a try.
1) Electrons travel in a conventional circuit travel from positive to negative (although in reality they travel from negative to positive).
Electrons move from atom to atom, migrating from a more negative toward a more positive potential. You can think of it is the electrons moving from a place where there are more electrons to a place where there are less.

Q)I'm confused as to how this may affect the current/voltage output at different areas.
You can think of voltage and current as pressure, and flow. An analogy would be water pressure and water flow. The voltage is the pressure, the current is the flow. Any time you restrict the flow, the pressure goes up. There is a set of equations called Ohms Law that equate the pressure (voltage) the flow (current) and the restriction to flow (resistance).

2) Charge is a particle (electron) that moves around a circuit. The potential amount of energy is called the voltage. And the current is the quantity of charge passing through a point.
You have it basically correct. Although some might question the notion that charge is a particle... Charge is a property of an electron, not the electron itself. Electric and magnetic charges are actually a condition of space as described by James Clerk Maxwell. The condition is possible because of two properties of space. These two properties are electric permittivity and magnetic permeability.
Q)I'm confused about the relationship between current and voltage. How can an electron have a potential amount of energy? What exactly does the battery do? Does it like 'kick' the electrons to give them more power? If so, what would be an analogue for charge? I mean, what affects it... is it the width of the wire? I can't really see how a battery can increase the quantity of charge passing through a point. Also, can charge be lost? Or does it just get split up? And what happens to current when it goes to a battery... is it constant unlike voltage?
When atoms possesses the same amount of electrons as protons, their charge (potential, or voltage) is neutral. So the electrons are happy to remain in place. Most metal atoms have an electron or two that is loosely held by the atoms. These electrons can easily leave their atom, leaving it with an unbalanced charge. Electrons of neighbouring atoms jump into fill the vacancy. Electrons thus move around in the metals.

A battery is a container that provides a chemical reaction that separates electrons from their atoms and concentrates them at a terminal while providing an opposite terminal where the electrons can accumulate. An analogy for charge is pressure. You can have a lot of pressure without much ability to do work. Like a hundred psi in a small garden hose or a hundred psi in a six inch pipe. You will get more work out of opening up the six inch pipe. If you have nothing to maintain the pressure, the work in terms of flow quickly stops. It is the same in an electric circuit.

3) Another question/analogue that's been plaguing me. In a lightbulb, when the tungsten filament resist's the electrons, is it resisting the voltage, or the current?
The resistance is to current flow. The voltage appears across the filament because of the resistance to flow. Voltage, E, is equal to current, I, times resistance, R. So E = IR is the simple relationship between voltage, current and resistance.
 
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  • #4
Hi swraman, you beat me to it:smile: Nice post. I can vouch for your comments.
 
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Thanks heaps! :) Think I understand now!
 
  • #6
Avoid "pressure and flow" analogies. They don't work and confuse the new student. Also, "potential" includes both voltage and current. In the *electric* domain of energy, the voltage is the potential. But in the *magnetic* domain, current is potential.

Also, voltage does NOT "push" charge. Charges mutually push against or towards one another and this property is "Coulomb force". It is an axiom, not derived or constructed. Current and voltage are mathematical constructs, ratios derived from the more basic quantities, charge, time, and energy.

Does this help? BR.

Claude
 

What is the difference between current and voltage?

Current is the flow of electric charge, usually represented by the symbol "I", while voltage is the measure of electric potential difference, represented by the symbol "V". In simpler terms, current is the amount of electricity flowing through a circuit, while voltage is the force that drives the current.

Why is it important to understand current and voltage?

Understanding current and voltage is crucial in understanding how electricity works and how it is used in various devices. It also helps in troubleshooting electrical issues and ensuring safety when working with electricity.

How are current and voltage related?

Current and voltage are directly related to each other through Ohm's law, which states that the current flowing through a conductor is directly proportional to the voltage and inversely proportional to the resistance of the conductor. This means that as voltage increases, current also increases, and vice versa.

What is the unit of measurement for current and voltage?

The unit of measurement for current is ampere (A), while the unit for voltage is volt (V). These units can be further broken down into smaller units, such as milliamps (mA) for current and millivolts (mV) for voltage.

What are some common sources of confusion between current and voltage?

One common source of confusion is mistaking the terms "current" and "charge". While current is the flow of electric charge, they are not the same thing. Another source of confusion is mixing up the direction of current and the direction of electron flow, which are opposite of each other in most cases.

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