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I do not understand how the neutral conductor lose electrons

  1. Jun 1, 2007 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    When a positively charged conductor touches a neutral conductor, the neutral conductor will
    (A) Gain protons
    (B) Gain electrons
    (C) Lose protons
    (D) Lose electrons
    (E) Stay neutral

    2. Relevant equations
    3. The attempt at a solution
    You know how when two different charged spheres touch each other you split the charges equally between them so I thought it would somewhat apply to this. Since it was a neutral conductor I thought it did not have any protons, electrons or neutrons so when a positively charged conductor touches it I thought it would gain protons since protons are positively charged. The answer says it loses electrons, but I don't really understand why.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 2, 2007 #2
    Judging from the fact that you thought the answer would be "gain protons," I believe you understand the concept of charge. However, you are missing one key concept, which I will try to explain below.

    For a moment, consider the structure of the atom. The protons and neutrons reside in the dense nucleus, while the electrons are found in the surrounding "cloud." The electrons are free to move about, while the protons and neutrons are held in place in the nucleus. Thus, when something becomes charged, it is describing the net movement of its electrons, NOT its protons AND electrons. This means that when something is said to have a positive charge, it means that it has lost electrons, NOT that it has gained protons.

    Also, something that is said to be neutral has an equal number of protons and electrons. Therefore, it carries a neutral charge. This does NOT mean that there are no protons and/or electrons. Saying the neutral conductor has no electrons and/or protons would mean that there are no atoms and, therefore, the neutral conductor would not exist.

    I hope this helps.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2007
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