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Original Title: Electric Quantities Note

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The main problem with electricity is that everyone uses it all the time, so they

think they know how it works already. It can be easy, particularly if you get

the main terms right:

Current - This is a measure of the flow of electrons around a circuit

(measured in Amperes or Amps (A))

Voltage - This is a measure of how much energy the electrons are carrying

around to the things in the circuit (measured in Volts (V))

Resistance - This is a measure of how hard it is for the electrons to travel

through a part of the circuit (measured in Ohms ())

The main worries are the first two - people often get them mixed up. Make sure

you learn them!

That's all very well, but what is a circuit and what is an electron? Well, a

circuit is a collection of components wired to a battery or power supply, which

pushes the small packets of charge, usually electrons, around it.

Analogies - ("it's a bit like...").The problem with electricity is that you can't

really see what's going on,so people come up with different ways of thinking

about it. You might have heard people talk about water flowing (current?) due to

pressure (voltage?)and meeting narrower pipes (resistance?). Or, there's the

idea of cars, where resistors are muddy tracks instead of motorways, and you

see how much petrol is used up to find the voltage. Pick whatever works for you,

but, remember that they are only models and are not the whole story.

Direction Problem!

Current flows from the positive (+ve) terminal of the battery to the negative (ve). This is called conventional current flow. The problem is, electrons are

negatively charged, so they want to get away from the -ve and go to the +ve.

So if electrons are going left to right, you say that the current is going right to

left (how confusing is that).

Electric Current:

Electric current is produced when electrons flow. These electrons always flow

from a negatively charged to a positively charged end. This is the electron flow.

It is assumed that current flows from positive to negative end and it is widely

held today. This is called the convectional current flow. The diagram below

makes it clearer.

Circuits

Electric current (I) is a measure of the rate of flow of electric charge (Q)

through a given cross section of a conductor. Such that: I = Q / t

The SI unit of current is ampere (A). An ammeter is used to measure current.

Now before moving on, you should all be aware of what a simple circuit looks

like.

Simple Measurement Circuit

Ammeter for measuring current. Thinking about how this works may help you

understand voltage and current a little better.

An ammeter needs to measure the flow of charge, so it is in series. This means

that all the charge has to flow through it and can be counted. It also means that

A voltmeter measures voltage across a component, which you may have heard

as potential difference. Potential is to do with energy in physics, so what the

voltmeter does is compare the energy difference between two points in a circuit,

to see how much has been used up. This means it is in parallel and it also

needs a high resistance (otherwise all the current would flow through the meter

instead of the component).

Measuring voltage and current can be used to measure resistance (see formulae

section).

Series Circuits

You should have come across the difference between series and parallel

circuits many times, but that does not mean to say that you can't get confused!

Series circuits are a bit pants, really. Any break in a circuit causes the whole

thing to go down, so one faulty Christmas Tree light can cause the whole lot to

go out (and then how do you figure out which one blew?).

Current in series: same all the way round (all the current has to flow through

everything).

Voltage in series: voltages across each component add up to the total voltage

supplied by the battery, as they have to share the voltage between them [(A) =

(B) + (C) in the diagram]. Higher resistances will need more of the voltage.

Final point - resistors in series: To work out the total resistance of two

resistors, just add them together. This is because the current has to go through

both of them.

Parallel Circuits

More useful and more common, but a little harder to get your head round. The

main deal is that each component is directly connected to the battery (follow the

wires round the circuit to check), so they each get the full voltage.

Voltage in parallel: all voltages the same.

Current in parallel: the current is shared out between the branches, but

recombines near the battery. In the diagram (A) = (B) + (C) = (D). How much

current each branch gets depends on the individual resistors - bigger

resistance = lower current (because it's harder for current to flow).

Resistance in parallel: you don't normally have to work out numbers, but the

rule of thumb is that the total resistance of two resistors in parallel is less than

the lowest individual resistor. This is because you are giving the current more

ways to go.

Circuit symbols

Formula

1. Ohm's Law

The law actually says that the resistance of a metal conductor is the same

whatever the current - unless it's getting hotter. However most people think of

these equations when the law gets mentioned:

2. Charge (Q) in Coulombs (C) and Time(t) in seconds(s):

Electric Current:

Electric current is produced when electrons flow. These electrons always flow

from a negatively charged to a positively charged end. This is the electron flow.

Now coming to the convectional current, in the previous days it was assumed

that current flows from positive to negative end and it is widely held today. This

is called the convectional current flow. The diagram below makes it clearer.

Electric current (I) is a measure of the rate of flow of electric charge (Q)

through a given cross section of a conductor. Such that:

I=Q/t

The SI unit of current is ampere (A). An ammeter is used to measure current.

Now before moving on, you should all be aware of how a simple circuit looks

like.

charge from one end of the circuit to another. Such that: E = W / Q

where E is the e.m.f. of the power supply, W is the amount of electrical energy

converted from electrical to non- electrical forms (work done) and Q is the

amount of charge. The SI unit for e.m.f. is Joule per Coulomb or volt (V).

Remember that e.m.f. is the movement of charge through the entire circuit.

Potential Difference (p.d.) is the amount of electrical energy consumed to move

a unit positive charge from one point to another in an electrical circuit. Such

that: V = W / Q

where V is the p.d., W is the electrical energy converted to other forms and Q

is the amount of charge. The SI unit for this is the same as that for e.m.f. and

that is volt (V).

Resistance:

electric current to pass through a material, copper wire lets say. So it is

basically the restriction (resistance) of a material to the free moving electrons in

the material. If you compare it with the friction in moving objects, its quite

correct.

Now in more scientific terms, resistance R of a component is the ratio of the

potential difference across it to the current I flowing through it, such that:

R=V/I

where R is resistance, V is the p.d. across the component (note that across a

component, that is, between two points, its p.d. and not e.m.f.) and I is the

current flowing through it.

The SI unit of resistance is ohm (O).

Resistance is measured using a conductor called resistor. Resistors are of two

types: fixed and variable (rheostats). Now you can tell exactly from the name

what these are, right? Fixed resistors have a fixed value while variable

resistors can vary the resistance and are used in circuits to vary current.

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