Potential Difference between earth and battery

1. Sep 7, 2015

Elsa1234

When I connected the positive terminal of the battery to one terminal of the bulb and the other terminal (of the bulb)to the ground the bulb did not glow, even when a potential difference exists?

Last edited: Sep 7, 2015
2. Sep 7, 2015

sophiecentaur

I don't know what actual circuit you were using but the - on your battery needs to have a continuous connection to Earth. The Earth has to complete the circuit. Check the connections. (Try it with just a negative' wire first, to check battery, bulb and holder.)

3. Sep 7, 2015

davenn

you have a hole in the circuit ... the other side of the light bulb isn't connected to anything
Yes, there is a potential difference between the other terminal of the light bulb and the ground,
but the air resistance is VERY high ( a very good insulator). The breakdown voltage of air is at least
5000V / cm possibly higher ( someone will confirm)

Dave

Last edited: Sep 7, 2015
4. Sep 7, 2015

Elsa1234

No this is not my circuit , the negative side of the bulb is connected to the ground instead of the negative terminal of the battery

5. Sep 7, 2015

sophiecentaur

If you don't connect bulb and battery to Earth then how is there a complete circuit`??
Left to its own devices, the positive terminal of the battery will be pulled to Earth potential and the negative terminal will find itself at -battery volts.

6. Sep 7, 2015

Staff: Mentor

There is no potential difference across the bulb. Why should the bulb care if there is a potential difference somewhere else?

7. Sep 7, 2015

davenn

This .... ?

If not that, where does the negative terminal of the battery go to then ?

You may now realise how unclear your original description was

Dave

Last edited: Sep 7, 2015
8. Sep 7, 2015

sophiecentaur

Everyone with a question about circuits should do us the courtesy of giving some sort of a labelled diagram.

9. Sep 7, 2015

davenn

indeed

10. Sep 7, 2015

ogg

Electrons from the battery need to return to the battery, or within microseconds a charge imbalance will stop any more electrons from flowing. Electricity flows from the battery back into the battery, there is no loss or gain of electrons in the batter or in the lightbulb (ignoring that first microsecond). Wire is a good conductor, which means that it will allow current to flow with little resistance. In a good conductor like wire, current flow is ONE WAY. To be clear: the direction current can flow in a wire can change, but at any one time current only flows in one direction. This means that if you connect a light bulb to one terminal of a battery, you aren't going to see anything happen. Only when you connect the other terminal of the battery to the other part of the lightbulb (so that current flows through the filament (assuming its incandescent)) and so that the electrons can go in on one wire and go out on the other at the same time will it light up.

11. Sep 11, 2015

CWatters

There is no potential difference across the bulb. You appear to be assuming that the -ve terminal of the battery is at 0V with respect to ground. That's a mistake.

Lets say it's a 9v battery. The +ve terminal is connected to ground via the bulb. The -ve terminal of the battery is not connected to anything so it will be at roughly -9V (minus nine volts) with respect to ground. This is because the resistance of the bulb is much lower than the resistance of the open circuit on the -ve terminal.

12. Sep 11, 2015

CWatters

Perhaps consider a 9V battery still isolated in it's packaging. The -ve terminal is not necessarily at 0V with respect to ground. All you can really say is that the +ve terminal is +9V with respect to the -ve terminal. You can't be sure the +ve terminal is 9V with respect to ground until the -ve terminal is connected to ground.

13. Sep 11, 2015

sophiecentaur

If this is proving difficult to the OP then why not reiterate the old, elementary rule which we learn in School 'You have to have a complete circuit'. Start with that and stick with it when trying to figure things out. The idea of Potential and Potential Difference involves a higher level of thinking.