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Does Electrical wire suffer 'wear' from electrons?

  1. May 30, 2007 #1
    Hi all,

    First post, hope its in the right forum.

    My question is, does copper wire wear out from the movement of electrons? Do the electrons cause deterioration?
    Assume in a vaccum (no oxidization etc)

  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2007 #2


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    Indeed, they do. The effect is called electromigration. You can basically imagine it as electrons pushing metal atoms around when they collide.

    Since current flows through DC circuits in the same direction at all times, the collisions can gradually push enough metal atoms out of the way and break the wire.

    For normal macroscopic wires, the effect is literally insignificant. For the tiny micron-scale wires in an integrated circuit, though, it's very important.


    - Warren
  4. May 30, 2007 #3
    Thanks! Great reply.
    Any idea what happens to the lost 'matter'?
  5. May 31, 2007 #4


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    It isn't "lost," it's just moved around. Think about a river washing sediment downstream.

    - Warren
  6. Jun 22, 2007 #5
    Is the effect canceled out on AC because the electrons flow both ways?
  7. Jun 22, 2007 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    Electromigration seems to be primarily a problem in microcircuits. I don't believe I've of problem in large power lines or power electronics.


    The same problem should occur in AC as well as DC for the same current density and voltage.
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