# The direction of an electrical current

• Wattif
In summary: In both coils the current is starting and ending at the same points, just rotating in different directions.Even though you have wound a non-inductive coil, the circuit still has a magnetic field because the circuit itself is a single turn, or loop. So it you look at the magnetic field direction of the single turn it will tell you the current direction.

#### Wattif

OK, so my last post seemed meaningless.
Can anyone help with this, I understand some of you say current moves from the positive terminal of a battery to the negative terminal and some say the opposite.
Lets say it is positive to negative just for this question.
If I have a battery that the positive terminal is on the right and negative on the left. I wind 2 coils, 1 clockwise and the other counterclockwise, other than that the same starting point and same ending point and I place both coils in the between the battery terminals, positive right and negative left. The 2 coils will have opposite magnetic fields, so if the current is moving from positive to negative only and creating different magnetic fields based on the coil winding clockwise or counterclockwise, how can it be said that the magnetic field is the only determining factor of what direction the current is moving?
In both coils the current is starting and ending at the same points, just rotating in different directions.

Wattif said:
OK, so my last post seemed meaningless.
Can anyone help with this, I understand some of you say current moves from the positive terminal of a battery to the negative terminal and some say the opposite.
Lets say it is positive to negative just for this question.
If I have a battery that the positive terminal is on the right and negative on the left. I wind 2 coils, 1 clockwise and the other counterclockwise, other than that the same starting point and same ending point and I place both coils in the between the battery terminals, positive right and negative left. The 2 coils will have opposite magnetic fields, so if the current is moving from positive to negative only and creating different magnetic fields based on the coil winding clockwise or counterclockwise, how can it be said that the magnetic field is the only determining factor of what direction the current is moving?
In both coils the current is starting and ending at the same points, just rotating in different directions.
Can you post a schematic and drawing of your question? It's a little hard to follow for me. Thanks.

Wattif said:
... some of you say current moves from the positive terminal of a battery to the negative terminal and some say the opposite.
Electrons move from the negative terminal to the positive terminal. Current flows from the positive terminal to the negative terminal. It's a convention that was started by mistake and has just hung on, as many accepted convention do, just BECAUSE it was a convention and everyone was used to it.

I agree w/ Berkeman. The rest of your post is confusing. You should always post a circuit diagram when asking about a circuit.

russ_watters and berkeman
Wattif said:
OK, so my last post seemed meaningless.
Can anyone help with this, I understand some of you say current moves from the positive terminal of a battery to the negative terminal and some say the opposite.
Lets say it is positive to negative just for this question.
If I have a battery that the positive terminal is on the right and negative on the left. I wind 2 coils, 1 clockwise and the other counterclockwise, other than that the same starting point and same ending point and I place both coils in the between the battery terminals, positive right and negative left. The 2 coils will have opposite magnetic fields, so if the current is moving from positive to negative only and creating different magnetic fields based on the coil winding clockwise or counterclockwise, how can it be said that the magnetic field is the only determining factor of what direction the current is moving?
In both coils the current is starting and ending at the same points, just rotating in different directions.
Even though you have wound a non-inductive coil, the circuit still has a magnetic field because the circuit itself is a single turn, or loop. So it you look at the magnetic field direction of the single turn it will tell you the current direction.

Wattif said:
Can anyone help with this, I understand some of you say current moves from the positive terminal of a battery to the negative terminal and some say the opposite.
In normal operation current moves from positive to negative terminal. Electrons move from negative to positive, and since electrons are negatively charged the current is in the opposite direction of their motion. There is no controversy about this at all. There is only a bit of confusion from students who mistakenly think that the current should be in the same direction of the charge carriers, regardless of the sign of the charge on the charge carriers.

As @phinds mentioned, assigning a negative charge to the electrons is a convention and it could have been done the other way, but the convention is well established and universally adopted.

Wattif said:
how can it be said that the magnetic field is the only determining factor of what direction the current is moving?
I have never heard anyone say that previous to your post. You may have misunderstood whatever source you think said that. It might help to post a link to the source you are quoting.

EverGreen1231 and bhobba

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Wattif said:
Current goes counter clockwise through this diagram. It goes from right to left through the inductors and from left to right through the battery itself.

Btw, this circuit, as drawn, is a short circuit and will have infinite current. To make it a little more realistic you should include a resistor to model the resistance in the coil and the battery.

That part I understand, I think you missed my point.

What about the magnetic fields? As drawn you simply have two independent inductors. There is nothing wrong with that. Inductances add in series, so you would simply have an overall inductance equal to the sum of the inductances.

Or if they are tightly coupled and have opposite directions, the inductance will be zero. Still nothing mysterious, IMO.

@Wattif , let me repeat what @Dale and @berkeman told you in different words.

If the two coils wound in different directions, are so close to each other, then the magnetic fields cancel each other and the inductance is zero. If they are so far apart that their fields don't interact with each other, then the direction of windings don't matter and the inductances add. Of course you can imagine a between case if we gradually brought the coils closer and closer.

But there is also a flaw in your approach. There are two ways to analyze this problem, one with circuit analysis, CA, and the other with Maxwell's Equations. In circuit analysis, we assume that there are no magnetic fields outside the wires or components. Therefore inductances in series always add. In Maxwell's equation, you must consider the actual 3D coordinates of each tiny segment of wire in the coils and the connecting wires and perform the spatial integrals to solve for the 3D fields.

You are confusing yourself by trying to imagine a case mixing CA and Maxwells. You drew a CA type schematic in 2 dimensions and without specifying the lengths of the wires, then asked a question about the magnetic fields. That is a recipe for failure.

EverGreen1231, phinds and berkeman
anorlunda said:
Of course you can imagine a between case if we gradually brought the coils closer and closer.
This between case can be analyzed using mutual inductance. You can vary the strength of the coupling to represent either extreme too.

@Wattif Here is a page describing mutual inductance including an example for the case of interest of two inductors in series with opposite winding.
https://www.electrical4u.com/mutual-inductance/

The total inductance would be ##L_1+L_2-2\kappa\sqrt{L_1 L_2}## where ##0\le\kappa\le 1##

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Wattif said:
Lets say it is positive to negative just for this question.
Let's back up a little bit. The posts here so far are all valid but I don't believe they address your underlying question.

Back when electricity was first being investigated (in 1800 an italian by the name of Allessandro Volta invented the first electric Battery), it was realized that there must be an excess of "something" and a shortage of "something" for this mysterious "stuff" to flow. (The "stuff" was initially thought to be a fluid of some sort.) Not knowing what was going on, an arbitrary decision was made to label the two different terminals as "+" and "-". This resulted in the convention of the "something" flowing from "+" to "-". Seems completely logical. This is now called "conventional current flow."

In 1897 J.J.Thomson discovered the Electron, and in 1906 he received the Noble Prize for doing so. It turned out that the Electron was the "something" that was flowing in an electrical circuit. However the Electron moves from the terminal called "-" to the terminal called "+".

To this day there is often confusion between "conventional current flow" ("+" to "-"), and "Electron flow" ("-" to "+").

Btw, the electrical unit called the Volt is named honoring Allessandro Volta.

Hope this helps.

Cheers,
Tom

p.s. Watch out for the labels Anode and Cathode, that too gets confusing.
An Anode is defined as the terminal where Electrons leave a device,
and the Cathode is the terminal where Electrons enter a device.

russ_watters
Wattif said:
If I have a battery that the positive terminal is on the right and negative on the left. I wind 2 coils, 1 clockwise and the other counterclockwise, other than that the same starting point and same ending point and I place both coils in the between the battery terminals, positive right and negative left. The 2 coils will have opposite magnetic fields, so if the current is moving from positive to negative only and creating different magnetic fields based on the coil winding clockwise or counterclockwise, how can it be said that the magnetic field is the only determining factor of what direction the current is moving?
In both coils the current is starting and ending at the same points, just rotating in different directions.

The direction the current is rotating is what determines the direction of the magnetic field.

See... "Magnetic field caused by current in a wire" and the right hand rule..

It's just the way the universe works.

There isn't really anything "special" about the direction of the magnetic field or the choice of hand. The choice of which hand to use is just convention just as by convention current flows from positive to negative.

In addition to the current rotating in the coils it's also rotating as it goes around the circuit which in this case is a one turn loop. You can also apply the right hand rule to that loop.

PS your coils are marked clockwise and anti clockwise but the direction depends on which end you look at.

Excuse me if my terminology is not correct.
Again, You missed my point about current flow direction and the magnetic field it creates.
current direction is usually based on the direction of the magnetic field lines, or poles, correct?
My point is a DC current used to create opposite magnetic fields just by rotating the coils in a different direction.
How can the magnetic field be the only determining factor for current flow direction if 2 different fields can be created
using the known current, like DC?

A link showing what I'm getting at

Wattif said:
current direction is usually based on the direction of the magnetic field lines, or poles, correct?
No. I told you that you probably misunderstood whatever source you used to come to this idea.

Please provide a link to the source that gave you this incorrect idea.

EverGreen1231
Wattif said:
current direction is usually based on the direction of the magnetic field lines, or poles, correct?
No, current direction is dependent on the polarity of the power source. PERIOD. The magnetic field line direction follows from that.

EverGreen1231
Wattif said:
current direction is usually based on the direction of the magnetic field lines, or poles, correct?
You are mixing up the schematics with the actual geometry.

Example: there are several different routes you can take if you want to travel from Moscow to Washington. Whichever route you chose won't effect the fact that you will go from Moscow to Washington. But your wallet will know the difference, right?

I am trying to understand this question / issue as well - and want to point out the Right Hand rule - start by thinking about the magnetic field of a single wire. Then carry this into a coil, you will see that the direction of the winding ( CW vs CCW) will reverse the magnetic field.

I'm struggling with the concept of a clockwise or anti clockwise coil...

If you make a coil with a single turn and then look at it from both sides you will see that from one side it appears to be wound clockwise and from the other side it appears anti clockwise.

It's only multiple turn coils that appear different and only then if there is an odd number of layers.

Or am I missing something? Tell me what you mean by clockwise and anti clockwise for a 1 turn coil.

Edit: This is wrong. I now understand what you mean by a clockwise or anti clockwise coil.

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It seems as if everyone has missed what I am getting at, Sorry
In the diagram just think of it with 1 coil at a time and think of the coils as multi turn coils.
the positive side of the coil and the negative side of the coil stay the same for each coil whens its being power
but the 2 coils create opposite magnetic fields but the current moves in the same direction for both coils
I understand what you say about a single wire polarity, but I guess I have gotten ahead of myself and trying
to explain what I am getting at is very hard
I will make a new post with a different diagram and let you decipher

Wattif said:
It seems as if everyone has missed what I am getting at, Sorry
In the diagram just think of it with 1 coil at a time and think of the coils as multi turn coils.
the positive side of the coil and the negative side of the coil stay the same for each coil whens its being power
but the 2 coils create opposite magnetic fields but the current moves in the same direction for both coils
I understand what you say about a single wire polarity, but I guess I have gotten ahead of myself and trying
to explain what I am getting at is very hard
I will make a new post with a different diagram and let you decipher
I may be missing something but it seems to me that your question has already been answered
CWatters said:
The direction the current is rotating is what determines the direction of the magnetic field.
So if you take a single coil and look at it from one end and the winding is clockwise, you get a magnetic field in one direction but if you reverse the winding so that it's counterclockwise looked at from the same end, you get a magnetic field going the other way.

Here's a picture

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solenoid

Wattif said:
I will make a new post with a different diagram and let you decipher
Before you do that, please respond to the question I have asked you twice already. Please provide a link to the source that gave you the false idea that the direction of the current is based on the direction of the magnetic field.

In my opinion, your diagram is sufficient already. You have two solenoids wound in series such that their north poles face each other. You have the mistaken idea that the direction of the field determines the direction of the current, so you are confused by this. On the one hand you understand that the circuit diagram has current going one way, but on the other hand your mistaken idea leads you to believe that the current should go the opposite way in one coil.

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NTL2009 and CWatters
[Strike]No the current is _not_ going in the same direction. You have two identical coils but one has been turned around so in effect the current goes the other way through it even though its moving down your work bench in the same direction.
[/Strike]

Edit: Oops I'm wrong. If you look at the coils from the same end the current rotates clockwise in one and anti clockwise in the other but still...The difference you are seeing is entirely consistent with the right hand rule.

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I'm sorry, there is no links, through different experiments I have seen things that could
point to a difference of opinion on current movement and what magnetic fields are created.
That is why I have been reading from this forum for several years and decided to post some questions.
Not trying to stir things up, but my questions are because of what I have seen and also because, Like I said
I have had 2 different professors test our works and with their's and your theory's, the outcome is different
than what the system does. So if the system has a different outcome from the theories currently used,
then something must have been overlooked or never seem before.
1 professor does not believe because his simulation says it can't happen, but he saw it happen.
A simulation can only work if all the data is the same, so if it thinks one way but its happening in another
then the outcome will be different. The other wanted to work with us but has congestive heart failure and is at
the point where he can't do much of anything.
I understand that some on here want to pick apart every word and that's ok, all I'm trying to do is get answers.
Like I said I will post a diagram and let who ever would like explain what they see.

Wattif said:
I'm sorry, there is no links, through different experiments I have seen things that could
point to a difference of opinion on current movement and what magnetic fields are created.
OK, then all I can do is tell you that your impression and understanding is wrong. I cannot explain a non existent reference.

I don’t know if you think that the current always goes from north to south or vice versa, but either understanding is wrong. If you want to understand these circuits then you must let go of your mistaken assumption (particularly since the assumption has no valid source)

@Wattif what part of post #24 did you not understand or not agree with?

I regret posting anything, please remove, thank you

Someone w/o basic knowledge in an area says the experts are wrong or confused, or that the experts can't explain something. But the novice can't really describe what they are talking about. Methinks there is a communication breakdown between the OP and the experts the OP talked to.

If anyone missed OPs first thread, it kind of puts things in perspective.

@Wattif , you've gone this far - please answer the questions out of respect to the people here who took the time and effort to respond to you.

Wattif said:
I'm sorry, there is no links, through different experiments I have seen things that could
point to a difference of opinion on current movement and what magnetic fields are created.

If you can't provide links, or conventional references, how can we possibly comment or assess their relevance to your question?

That is why I have been reading from this forum for several years and decided to post some questions.
Not trying to stir things up, but my questions are because of what I have seen and also because, Like I said
I have had 2 different professors test our works and with their's and your theory's, the outcome is different
than what the system does. So if the system has a different outcome from the theories currently used,
then something must have been overlooked or never seem before.
1 professor does not believe because his simulation says it can't happen, but he saw it happen.
A simulation can only work if all the data is the same, so if it thinks one way but its happening in another
then the outcome will be different. The other wanted to work with us but has congestive heart failure and is at
the point where he can't do much of anything.

If you, or anyone else for that matter, thinks they have made a new discovery (and you have eliminated errors to reduce embarrassment) the best way to proceed is to document and publish the experiment so that it can be replicated.

I understand that some on here want to pick apart every word and that's ok, all I'm trying to do is get answers.

To answer a question we first have to understand it.

Like I said I will post a diagram and let who ever would like explain what they see.

Awaited with interest.

I note your YouTube video is three years old but neither it nor your other videos appear to demonstrate your assertion that flipping a coil gives different results to winding one in the other direction.

Averagesupernova
Tom.G said:
What do you get if you look at this from opposite ends? To me it looks like it is a clockwise wind regardless.
I think the OP means that the 2 coils are wound in opposite directions. So given the same current through both, the B-field in the middle cancels. But I'm honestly not sure what he means.

NTL2009
@Wattiff
Wattif said:
how can it be said that the magnetic field is the only determining factor of what direction the current is moving?
In both coils the current is starting and ending at the same points, just rotating in different directions.

Current and its magnetic field are related by right hand rule.

Words that paint a different picture need to be fine- tuned . After all,
'The art of reasoning is nothing more than a language well arranged" Lavoisier

There's a third flux coming straight out of the screen toward your eyes because of the current flowing around the loop between the battery terminals. Right hand rule again.

Excruciating attention to detail in wording is the price of clear communication.

Don't give up - we all struggle in the early stages.

Any help?

old jim

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