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Homework Help: Why do negative charges spontaneously accelerate when they move to?

  1. Aug 9, 2014 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    Why do negative charges spontaneously accelerate?

    The book I am studying from asked me to verify this statement:

    Negative charges spontaneously accelerate and increase in kinetic energy when they move toward a point of higher potential.

    I don't understand why this is the case from a theoretical point of view. I understand why it works according to the formula, but practically if an electron moves to a point of higher potential that means that some of the kinetic energy has been converted to potential energy which means it should slow down right?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 9, 2014 #2
    The electron jumps to a higher orbit so it is farther from the positive nucleus, which means it has jumped to a point of higher potential. However, because it's charge is negative, its change in potential energy is negative which means to go to a higher energy level it has lost potential energy even though it jumped to a point of higher potential. That doesn't seem like it makes sense though. How come it is jumping to a higher potential yet it is losing potential energy?
  4. Aug 9, 2014 #3


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    It is exactly what you said. The electric potential tells you what the potential energy of a positive test charge would be. A negative charge would have the opposite force and thus the opposite potential energy.
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