# Tradecraft University Basic Electricity 101

1.3

The Essential Electric Circuit

We need a definition for “ circuit”

Electrical current must have a source (battery,
generator, city grid etc.), a conductive path (wires or other conductors – intentional or
not, a load (light bulb or other “user” of the power), and a return path to the source to be
defined as a practical circuit. In essence, a circuit is not a circuit unless what leaves the
source finds its way back to the source. If there is a break in the electrons journey there
is no useful purpose as the load(in this case a light bulb) cannot produce light. In the
picture, we have installed an intentional break in the circuit – we call it a switch.
You might have been wondering how electrons can continuously flow in a uniform
direction through wires without the benefit of these hypothetical electron Sources and
Destinations
.
In order for the Source-and-Destination scheme to work, both would have to have an
infinite capacity for electrons in order to sustain a continuous flow! Using the marbleand-tube analogy, the marble source and marble destination buckets would have to be
infinitely large to contain enough marble capacity for a ”flow” of marbles to be sustained.

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The answer to this paradox is found in the concept of a circuit: a never-ending looped
pathway for electrons. If we take a wire, or many wires joined end-to-end, and loop it
around so that it forms a continuous pathway, we have the means to support a uniform
flow of electrons without having to resort to infinite Sources and Destinations: