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Help Voltage drop is driving me insane

  1. Aug 31, 2008 #1
    Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    1. If the Voltage Drop across a load increases due to its added resistance, what happens to the voltage drop across other segments on the circuit?

    2 Why does resistance decrease Voltage (create voltage drop) if the Voltage is a Force "APPLIED" to the entire circuit.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 31, 2008 #2


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    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    1. The voltage drop across a closed loop in a circuit is equivalent to the emf driving the current around that loop. The emf is constant throughout the loop regardless of resistance. So that means all the voltage drops would sum up to the same emf. What happens if a particular voltage drop across a load increases? What does that say about the sum of the voltage drop around the same loop across other circuit elements?

    2. Voltage isn't exactly a "force". It's the amount of energy provided to a unit of charge when it travels in a closed loop in the circuit. So the proper question would be why does the energy of electrons or charge carriers diminishes when it goes through a circuit element?
  4. Aug 31, 2008 #3
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    I thought that voltage was the amount of FORCE that was inherent because of.....to equalize a "surplus" of electrons, relative to a deficiency of electrons...then RESULTING proportionally in the amount of "energy" expended/provided to a unit of charge because of that force...

    Yes, I guess this is the real question
    you are basically saying the force is applied the same everywhere but the energy is not, can you elaborate....i need detail.
  5. Aug 31, 2008 #4
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    think of the electrons as water. voltage would then be pressure.
  6. Aug 31, 2008 #5
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    Well, the energy contained in a circuit may be given by W=qV.

    When you differentiate this equation with respect to time, you get


    So, for a given applied voltage, the energy must be constant (law of conservation of energy), and since V cannot be changed, the current varies across the load.

    Since the net load may be a variable, the energy available to the load is still constant, but the amount of charge moving through the various parts of the load will vary.
  7. Aug 31, 2008 #6


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    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    I never tried thinking about it in terms of force because it's quite confusing and you'll end up confusing the notion of "force" in mechanics and circuits. Note that there isn't a surplus or deficiency of electrons anywhere in a circuit, unless there's capacitors involved.

    As above, don't think of it as "force". The energy provided to a charge to move through all the circuit elements in a closed loop is the emf. The resistance of a circuit element 'saps' the energy provided to the electron (though this doesn't mean the speed of the electron is reduced!), until it reaches the negative terminal of the battery and "gets recharged" again.
  8. Aug 31, 2008 #7
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    I don't get it.....you say don't think about it in terms of force....but, yet you say EMF
  9. Aug 31, 2008 #8
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    i was refering to the surplus or deficiency of electrons manipulated at the source, like in a battery.
  10. Aug 31, 2008 #9


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    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    You shouldn't take terms too literally. The electromotive force is not a "force" in a literal sense any more than imaginary numbers are purely imaginary. There are a lot of physics terms which are coined from the original groundbreaking papers whose authors were wedded to an antiquated worldview and philosophy.


    And there isn't any surplus or deficiency of electrons in a cell. The electrons move from the positive to the negative terminal in the circuit because of the electric field associated with the potential difference provided by the cell. The electrochemical potentials cause the electrons to move from one half-cell to the other:
  11. Aug 31, 2008 #10
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    ok now i am VERY confused....how is there a potential difference if there is no surplus or deficiency of electrons???
    as far as i know a deficiency or surplus of electrons will make an atom more positively or negatively charged...doesn't the chemical reaction in a cell generate the separation of charge???

    on wikipedia is say The source of a true electric field is the electric charge that has been separated by the mechanism generating the emf.
  12. Aug 31, 2008 #11
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

  13. Aug 31, 2008 #12


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    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    Hi, perhaps this page would help:

    Basically what it says is that there is a pair of oxidation/reduction reactions which occur simultaneously. The electrons given up by oxidation is then provided as a reactant for the reduction which occurs at the cathode. The electrons given up by oxidation then travel around the ciruit to reach the cathode and that is the source of current. I don't know what Wikipedia means by a "true electric field".

    This is in reference to what?
  14. Aug 31, 2008 #13
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    Oh yes, this question has been driving me insane for a while now.

    Voltage is the integral of the electric field over distance between the two sources of the electric field.

    http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/7549/circuit56wc7.jpg [Broken]

    So as far as direct current from a battery is concerned, Each terminal of the battery has so many electrons missing on the positive side, and the same amount of electrons added to the negative side. Each terminal has the same exact electric field but with opposite charge.

    In the case of a battery, distance is insignificant. So the voltage of the battery is determined mostly by the strength of the electric field coming from the 2 terminals.

    Now keeping this in mind, lets think about voltage drops due to resistance.

    I often think of this analogy. Voltage is like the potential energy that a ball feels on top of a roof. The potential energy is determined by gravity and the height of the ball. Nothing else.

    Electric field is exactly like gravity. Heck look at coulombs law and Newton’s law of gravitation. They look almost identical.

    So the voltage is determined only by the strength of the electric field and the distance between the positive and negative terminals. By connecting a really long circuit you add to that distance, but regular circuits are very short. So distance doesn’t really matter.

    Okay now going back to the analogy. I always thought of resistance the same as friction or air resistance. So now think of the ball falling off the roof. It has some velocity V.

    Air resistance affects its velocity.

    Now here is the main point!!!!! Air resistance doesn’t effect the potential energy of the ball. The only thing which affects that is gravity (which never changes ) and distance.

    So if current is the same as velocity, and resistance in a circuit the same as air resistance, the voltage should NOT be affected by resistance. It should only be affected by distance which is too tiny to matter.

    But why is it affected? This question has driven me insane for a year now.

    I have an idea though. Resistance in a circuit is not like air resistance. Instead resistance in a circuit blocks out the electric field between the electron traveling through the circuit and the positive electrode. So then Voltage is decreased, which in turn decreases current by ohm's law.

    That is the only way it makes sense to me!!! Please explain if I'm wrong.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  15. Aug 31, 2008 #14
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    voltage could be thought of as height above ground. but instead of just falling straight to the ground imagine a slide twisting and turning around from the top to the bottom. the energy released is not effected by the route the slide takes.

    but I really think water pressure makes a better analogy. the mass of the water represents inductance. a diaphragm in the pipe represents capacitance. friction as resistance.
  16. Aug 31, 2008 #15
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    Well yes exactly. The Potential energy is NOT affected. Then why is Voltage affected? Voltage is potential energy.

    What is affected is kinetic energy of the ball or electron or whatever you want. That is why current goes down due to resistance. Current is kinetic energy dependant, while voltage is potential energy dependant.

    Btw I'm just a mere university student with electrical engineering as a major who loves science. I'm just throwing my ideas out according to my understanding. I want you older and more experienced professors or whoever you are at this site lol, to explain the world to me and the rest of us mere students. :wink:
  17. Aug 31, 2008 #16
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    I an not o professor. I probably know less about it than you do.

    what do you mean 'why is the voltage affected'? how do you think its affected?
  18. Sep 1, 2008 #17
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    Well I mean the title of this thread. Voltage drops. When solving a circuit the voltage inside of the resistor drops. Why?
  19. Sep 1, 2008 #18
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    if you have water at one pressure connected by a hose to another container at a lower pressure water will flow from one to the other. water will continue to accelerate through the hose until the pressure drop from friction equals the difference in pressure.
  20. Sep 1, 2008 #19
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    Yea I guess that makes sense. Thanks. I'm not really used to thinking of water pressure, I'm more used to thinking of it the way I described earlier.

    I think when it comes to electrical engineering, its easier to not question why voltage drops, but to just accept that it does and to solve for it correctly. :wink:
  21. Sep 1, 2008 #20
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    As far as anaogies go, I don't want to know what "It" is like.
    I want to know what "It" is......And I also want to know anything about "It's" WHYs..and HOWs

    I know that voltage is a measurment that is valid when refering to OPEN terminals, and not in effect when part of a closed circuit........In an OPEN supply measurement there is no generated EMF other than that of the supply.

    I also know that when you measure the voltage across a device with a closed circuit you are NOT reading the supply voltage anymore, but instead VOLTAGE DROP, in relation to the given current and known resistance of your meter..... you are measuring the suppy EMF acting on the rest of the circuit, or the "generated" EMF, known as Voltage drop.

    again....spare me the lame analogies,

    Why does the energy of electrons or charge carriers diminishes when it goes through a circuit element?

    please refrain from explaining things just simply because of OHMs law....OHMs law is described or "DEFIJNED" BY what happens....it does NOT DEFINE WHAT IS HAPPENING.
  22. Sep 1, 2008 #21


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    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    A cell does not function the way you have described it. Your description is more suitable for that of a parallel plate capacitor than a battery. As I mentioned (and provided a link to) earlier, just because separation of charge causes an electric field which in turn induce current flow doesn't mean that current can flow only in the existence of a charge separation. The two half-cells of a battery do not contain either a surplus or a deficiency of electrons. Instead, what we have here are electrochemical galvanic potentials, and one half-cell undergoes oxidation while the other undergoes reduction. Oxidation in one half-cell (anode) causes the electrons to be liberated and they travel along the circuit wires to the other half-cell (cathode), where electrons are required for reduction to take place. It is these electrochemical potentials which induce a voltage across a circuit, causing current flow (locally I believe, but which spread out over the entire circuit loop after a while).

    I'm an EE major as well, and I think it's always better to understand the fundamentals than accept it without question, provided it doesn't confuse you too much.

    A current is basically a flow of electric charge induced by an electric field associated with a voltage. When an electron moves in a conductor under an electric field, it will accelerate. However it will inevitably be scattered by collisions with the lattice, and its speed decreases to zero. But the electric field is still present, and it induces the electron to accelerate (and move again) until the next collision occurs. Each one of these collisions cause the electrons to lose its kinetic energy, and this KE is dissipated as heat. It is for this reason that wires feel warm after use. The repeated collisions ensure that the average KE of the electrons is very low. Hence the total energy of the electrons is nearly equivalent to its potential energy (PE). It is evident that the potential energy of the electron decreases when it gets closer to the positive terminal, just as we might say that an electron situated closer to a positively charged plate has lower PE.

    This is where voltage comes in. The energy provided to the electron is given by the potential difference or voltage. A resistor with high resistance causes the electrons to lose more energy due to more electron scattering. This is why we have R=rho l/A. The longer the wire (or conductor) the more scattering events occur throughout the length and the electrons lose more energy. Similarly the larger the cross-sectional of the conductor, the more "space" there is for electrons to move throughout the conductor length. The actual picture is really a lot more complicated than this. You'll have to use the Kronig-Penney model as approximation to the electron wells in the lattice, then introduce something known as k-space (reciprocal vectors) to come up with something known as the dispersion relation (E-k diagram) and then from there you can derive the carrier transport equation for charge flow under some conditions. But that is solid-state physics and I'm not familiar with it.

    What do you mean by "open supply"?

    Kindly explain what is "supply voltage".

    There is nothing "lame" about the analogies granpa or anyone else has provided in this thread. We don't know your level of expertise and knowledge and it's impossible to teach solid state physics to high school students just so we can derive Ohm's law and the concept of resistance and voltage drops. Hence analogies are necessary so that educators can teach students the basics of circuit theory before delving more into the fundamentals.

    See above.
  23. Sep 1, 2008 #22
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    I think you need to calm down a bit. If you take a step back, along with a deep breath and then read the posts by Defennder, you could probably answer your own questions or at the least, clarify them for us so we could answer them better.

    As regards EMF, the term is misleading, there is no "force" such.

    What happens is that the chemicals inside the cell could become more stable by losing energy and they could facilitate this loss of losing energy by gaining or losing electrons (gibbs free energy), and you could read up on a bit of basic thermodynamics and electro chemistry if you want to understand that process better.

    Now there is a REASON for the chemicals to lose or gain electrons because it helps them attain a lower energy state and hence become more stable. This energy that they lose to attain stability is the energy available to us to utilize as we see fit in a circuit.

    Now, naturally, we cannot use more energy than is available to us and as we are more concerned with the practical application of such principles, we call this tendency to trade electrons a potential difference. The flow of electrons through a path between the two chemicals is called electric current. The opposition the electrons face when traveling through the path between the two terminals is called resistance.
  24. Sep 1, 2008 #23
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    This makes sense, and actually raises more questions.
    This is very interesting but..
    1. If these events are pretty much instantaneous, meaning that action and reaction coexist …accelerating and deceleration and colliding practically simultaneously and inseparably….then repeats itself inherently, influenced due to the presence of an electric field and other electrons…in a chain of events that constitute electron flow, and kinetic energy dissipation…..then voltage drop or kinetic energy loss must be a continuous chaotic, somewhat uncertain ongoing and changing value in a negligible way…..How is this “dissipation of kinetic energy” or “Voltage drop” calculated if it is occurring in a million different ways, when electrons are taking the form of many different paths of least resistance inside a resistor………..I hope I’m asking this right….
    2. I understand that the “EMF” generated by the “potential energy” is in the form of kinetic energy as soon as you have electron current flow…or power loss (dissipation)…… and that this kinetic energy is proportional to the potential energy that imposed the current flow in the first place, However…..what I do not understand is that… If the kinetic energy is constantly dissipating its energy in the form heat due to electrons colliding into each other then the PE…and KE are no longer equivalent only in the form of electric energy, but rather equivalent in electric and thermal energy output (dissipation). Why is it that in a circuit the voltage drop..or KE is always equal to the PE when the KE should be less due to heat dissipation.
  25. Sep 1, 2008 #24
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    Sigh.... No wonder my professor said on day 1 that the concept of voltage is really hard to grasp. But according to its definition (integral of the electric field over distance between the 2 charged bodies causing the electric field) it makes perfect sense to me.

    http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/7549/circuit56wc7.jpg [Broken]

    What pulls charged bodies? What causes attraction? The electric field.....

    I'm not talking about alternating current from a generator. That’s a totally different reason for current and its expressed through Faraday's law.

    Voltage is the pressure, the electromotive force. Voltage DESCRIBES what causes the electrons to start moving in the first place. Unless you want to be an atomic physicist it doesn’t need to be any more complex than that for the average electrical engineer.

    And as far as a battery is concerned, my description earlier comes from many books, in which its all the same.

    I had a small taste of the Oxidation and Reduction reactions in chemistry. That is going way too deep into chemical reactions to understand the basic concept.

    Its all simple. In general, the negative terminal has an excess of electrons. The positive terminal has a deficiency. The cause of this and the actual details of the reactions don't need to matter to grasp the basic concept of why a battery causes electrons to move.

    When you connect the path from negative to positive, electrons have a means to move towards the electric field which is pulling them. You added a conductor path. So they move.

    Now the part which is UNLIKE a capacitor. When the electron reaches the positive terminal, the reactions within the battery force the electron back onto the negative plate. And so the process starts all over again, until the battery has no more reactant, or whatever is the official chemical reason, sorry I'm not a chemist. Basically until the battery dies.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  26. Sep 1, 2008 #25
    Re: Help!!!!! Voltage drop is driving me insane!!!!

    First you state that the electric field pulls charged bodies. Then you state that voltage is the pull. Actually, you had it right the first time. The Coulomb force between 2 charged bodies is an axiom based on empirical observation. What cause this force is unknown, but from Coulomb's force law, other laws are derived. After Coulomb's law, it was observed that the action is not instantaneous, but propogated with finite speed. This gave rise to the field concept. Thus a charged body propogates an E field, which results in a force being observed when it reaches another charged body. Voltage is then derived from the integral of E field and path. What "causes" electrons to move in the first place is the inherent nature of charged bodies. They exert forces upon one another with fields propogating at speeds near that of light. Just thought I'd chime in.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
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