# Properties of electric charges - insulators and conductors

• joej24
In summary, the conversation discussed hypothetical questions about the behavior of charges in a conductor and the Earth's role as an electrical source and insulator. The responses focused on the interactions between charges and the concept of equilibrium leading to a uniform spread of charges.
joej24

## Homework Statement

I have some hypothetical questions.

Question 1
There is a conductor with a single electron and proton inside of it. If we try to charge the conductor by induction, we might put a proton close to the conductor. The electron will go towards that proton while the proton in the conductor will be repulsed away. What if the electron and proton inside the conductor bump into each other, thus causing them to become attracted to one another? Does this attracting force and the repulsing force on the proton inside the conductor cause the electron to move away or does the electron inside the conductor still move towards the proton outside of the conductor?

Question 2

Since the Earth is sort of an ultimated source of electrons, when people stand on the earth, do they lose electrons, gain electrons, stay neutral (perhaps from gaining and losing electrons simultaneously), or do the charges in the feet of people just rearrange themselves? The Earth grounds and gains electrons, so does that make it an insulator?

Question 3
Why do positive and negative charges inside a conductor spread themselves uniformly across the conductor?

## Homework Equations

Alike charged electrons move away from one other while different charged electrons attract one another.

## The Attempt at a Solution

Question 1
I think that the electron/proton pair inside the conductor will stay where it is since the force repelling the electron inside the conductor will cancel the force of the proton pulling the electron towards it. But I also know that electrons move however the heck they want.

Question 2
I think that the charges rearrange themselves because of polarization. That would mean the Earth is an insulator then

Question 3
Is that just the way nature works? I think that the intermolecular electronic forces somehow cancel themselves out

Question 1 is phrased very unusually, but I think I can formulate a response. I think that, because the proton in the conductor is much, much closer to the electron than the proton outside of the conductor, the proton right next to the electron will have the greater effect, and the electron will be more strongly attracted to it. However, the proton will still feel a repulsive force from the outside proton, so, assuming that the proton isn't bound to any other atom or molecule, it would be repulsed away.

Question II: The Earth is electrically neutral. However, because of its size, it is also capable of absorbing charges into it. If a person standing on the Earth is electrically neutral, then there will be no transfer of charges between the Earth and the person. If the person is NOT electrically neutral, then there will be a transfer of charges (think static discharge, but spread out over a second or two). A lightning strike is the most prominent example.

Question III: They spread out evenly because like charges want to get as far away from each other as possible. Because of each particle's equal charge, they naturally put an equal amount of distance between each other in order to reach equilibrium. This applies equally well to positive as well as negative charges.

## 1. What is the difference between insulators and conductors?

Insulators are materials that do not allow electric charges to flow through them easily, while conductors are materials that allow electric charges to flow through them easily.

## 2. What are some common examples of insulators and conductors?

Insulators include materials such as rubber, plastic, and glass, while conductors include materials such as copper, silver, and gold.

## 3. How do insulators and conductors affect the flow of electricity?

Insulators prevent the flow of electricity, while conductors allow the flow of electricity. This is because insulators have tightly bound electrons that do not move freely, while conductors have loosely bound electrons that can move easily.

## 4. Can materials switch between being insulators and conductors?

Yes, some materials, such as semiconductors, can switch between being insulators and conductors depending on certain conditions like temperature or the presence of impurities.

## 5. How do insulators and conductors impact the design of electrical devices?

The properties of insulators and conductors are taken into consideration when designing electrical devices. For example, insulators are used to insulate wires and prevent electric shocks, while conductors are used to allow the flow of electricity and transfer energy in electronic circuits.

• Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
10
Views
318
• Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
10
Views
1K
• Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
23
Views
936
• Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
9
Views
453
• Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
11
Views
1K
• Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
5
Views
1K
• Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
2
Views
3K
• Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
2
Views
2K
• Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
2
Views
2K
• Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
35
Views
3K