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# JJ 2014 H2 PHYSICS (9646) Current of Electricity

Current of Electricity
• Electric current
• Potential difference
• Resistance and resistivity
• Sources of electromotive force

Learning Outcomes

## Candidates should be able to:

(a) show an understanding that electric current is the rate of flow of charged particles.
(b) define charge and the coulomb.
(c) recall and solve problems using the equation Q = It.
(d) define potential difference and the volt.
W
(e) recall and solve problems using V = .
Q
(f) recall and solve problems using P = VI, P = I2R.
(g) define resistance and the ohm.
(h) recall and solve problems using V = IR.
(i) sketch and explain the I-V characteristics of a metallic conductor at constant
temperature, a semiconductor diode and a filament lamp.
(j) sketch the temperature characteristic of a thermistor.
ρl
(k) recall and solve problems using R = .
A
(l) define e.m.f. in terms of the energy transferred by a source in driving unit charge round
a complete circuit.
(m) distinguish between e.m.f. and p.d. in terms of energy considerations.
(n) show an understanding of the effects of the internal resistance of a source of e.m.f. on
the terminal potential difference and output power.

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JJ 2014 H2 PHYSICS (9646) Current of Electricity

Background

Types of electricity

Current Static
(Net flow of charges (No net flow of charges
in a certain direction) in a certain direction)

## Matter can be classified into 3 types according to their electrical properties:

Conduct
Type of matter electricity? Reason Examples

## Conductors Yes Presence of mobile charge Metals, electrolyte

carriers, mainly electrons and solutions
ions, which will drift to
constitute an electric current
under the effect of an applied
electric field.
Intrinsic Conductivity Number of mobile charge Gp IV elements of
Semiconductors depends on carriers (electrons and holes) the Periodic Table
temperature varies substantially with (eg. Silicon)
temperature.
Insulators No Minimal or no mobile charge Rubber, wood and
carriers that can drift under plastic
the effect of an applied
electric field.

(a) show an understanding that electric current is the rate of flow of charged
particles.

## Electric current is the rate of flow of electric charge.

Q
Mathematically, I=
t

where:

## I is the electric current, in ampere (A);

Q is the electric charge, in coulomb (C); and
t is the time taken, in second (s), for the electric charge to flow past the section of the
circuit.

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JJ 2014 H2 PHYSICS (9646) Current of Electricity

Worked Example 1
In a gas, conduction occurs as a result of negative particles flowing one way and positive
particles flowing in the opposite direction as shown.

Copper + Copper
conductor - conductor

Gas at low
pressure

The copper conductors carry a current of 0.28 mA. The number of negative particles passing
any point in the gas per unit time is 1.56 x 1015 s-1 and the charge on each negative particle
is -1.60 x 10-19 C. Calculate the current due to:

(i) the negative charge flowing past any point in the gas per second,
(ii) the positive charge flowing past any point in the gas per second

Solution
(i) Number of negative particles per unit time = 1.56 x 1015 s-1
Charge on each negative particle is -1.60 x 10-19 C.
Hence, current due to negative charges flow = (1.56 x 1015)(1.60 x 10-19)
= 0.250 mA

(ii) Since the flow of both positive and negative charges contribute to the current,

## current due to positive charges = positive charge flow per second

= Itotal – Inegative charge
= 0.28 – 0.25
= 0.03 mA

## (b) define charge and the coulomb.

(c) recall and solve problems using the equation Q = It.

Q
From the definition of electric current I = ,
t

Q = It

Charge is the product of the electric current flowing through a cross section of a
circuit and the time for which it flows.

From Q = It ,
1 C = (1 A) (1 s) = 1 A s

One coulomb is the quantity of electric charge that passes through a cross section
of a circuit when a steady current of one ampere flows for one second.
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Worked Example 2
Given that the electric current flowing through a circuit is 0.76 mA, calculate the electric
charge which passes each section of the circuit over a time of 60.0 s.

Solution

Q = It
Q = (0.76 ×10-3 )(60.0) = 0.0456 = 4.56 ×10-2 C

Worked Example 3
Over a time of 8.0 s, the electric current flowing through a circuit I / mA
component is reduced uniformly from 60 mA to 20 mA.
Calculate the charge that flows during this time. 60

Solution

## Total Charge = area under current-time graph

= 21 (8.0)(60 + 20)(10 −3 ) = 0.32 C
20

t/s
0 8.0

Worked Example 4
A plastic disc of radius r rotates at frequency f.
Four small metal studs, each given a charge of Q,
are placed around its circumference, as shown.

## Which of the following expressions gives the equivalent

electric current of the rotating charges?

Q 2Qf
(A) 4Qf (B) 4 (C) 8πrQf (D)
f πr
Solution

Q 4Q 1
I= = = 4Qf [since f = ]
t T T
(Ans: A)

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## (d) define potential difference and the volt.

When a bulb is connected to a battery, the bulb gets lit up. The battery converts
chemical energy into electrical energy and is therefore a source of electrical energy.

The bulb converts electrical energy into thermal energy and light (other forms of
energies) and therefore dissipates electrical energy.
Defining potential difference (p.d.) in terms of:

energy power

The p.d. between two points in a circuit The p.d. between two points in a circuit
is defined as the energy converted is defined as the rate of conversion
from electrical to other forms of from electrical to other forms of
energy per unit charge passing from energy per unit current flowing from
one point to the other. one point to the other.

Mathematically,

## energy converted power converted

p.d. = p.d. =
charge current
W P
V = V = or P = VI
Q I

where

## V is the p.d., in volts (V)

W is the energy converted, in joules (J)
Q is the electric charge moved, in coulombs (C)
P is the power converted, in watts (W)
I is the electric current flowing, in amperes (A)

## Defining the volt:

W
From V = , 1 V = 1 J C-1 From P = VI , 1 V = 1 W A-1
Q

One volt is the potential difference One volt is the potential difference
between two points in a circuit in which between two points in a circuit if one
one joule of electrical energy is watt of electrical power is converted to
converted to other forms when one other forms of power when a constant
coulomb of charge passes from one current of one ampere passes between
point to the other. the two points.

Note:
• Since the unit for p.d. is volt, p.d. is frequently called voltage.

• The term “p.d.” can only be used if the two points are stated clearly.
For a single circuit component, the two points are usually the two ends of the
component hence the p.d. across the component. The current through the
component results from the p.d. across that component.

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• Sometimes the term “potential at a point” in a circuit is used. This has meaning
only if there is a defined reference point for zero potential. The electrical earth
has zero potential.

The circuit below shows the corresponding potential at each points of W, X, Y, and Z.
With point Y earthed, the potential of all other points in the circuits can be determined
as shown.

With point W earthed, the corresponding potentials at each point W, X, Y and Z can
be determined as shown below:

• If the circuit is not earthed then the potential at all points in the circuit is
indeterminate. Only the potential difference between points can be determined.

A battery of e.m.f. 12 V means the battery sets up a (+) potential higher than the
(-) potential by 12 V. The actual values of potential at the terminals can be any
arbitrary values but the difference must be 12 V.

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W
(e) recall and solve problems using V = .
Q

Worked Example 5
An immersion heater is rated at 3000 W and is switched on for 2000 s. During this time a
charge of 25 kC is supplied to the heater.

Solution
W (3000 )(2000 )
V = = = 240 V
Q 25000

## (f) recall and solve problems using P = VI, P = I2R.

(h) recall and solve problems using V = IR.

power converted
From p.d. = (Found on page 5),
current
P
V =
I

Hence,

P = VI = (IR)I = I2R

Worked Example 6
A 12 V 24 W bulb is connected in series with a variable resistor and a 18 V battery of
negligible internal resistance. The variable resistor is adjusted until the bulb operates at its
normal rating.

Determine
(i) the current in the bulb;
(ii) the resistance of the bulb;
(iii) the p.d. across the variable resistor;
(iv) the power dissipation in the variable resistor.

Solution
(i) P = VI
24 = (12)I
I = 2.0 A

V2 V2 122
(ii) V = IR or P= →R = = =6Ω
R P 24
12 = (2.0)R
R = 6.0 Ω

## (iii) p.d. across variable resistor = 18 – 12 = 6.0 V

(iv) P = VI = (6.0)(2.0) = 12 W

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## (g) define resistance and the ohm.

Ohm’s law states that the current flowing through a metallic conductor is directly
proportional to the potential difference between its ends provided that all other
physical conditions (such as temperature and stress) are kept constant.

Mathematically,
V
IαV => V = RI => R = = constant
I

## The proportionality constant R in the equation is the electrical resistance of the

device. It is constant for an ohmic conductor. Materials which obey Ohm’s law are
called ohmic conductors.

## Resistance of a resistor is defined as the ratio of the potential difference across

the resistor to the current flowing through it.

V
From R = ,
I
1 Ω = 1 V A-1

One ohm is the electric resistance of a resistor when a potential difference of one
volt across its terminal drives a current of one ampere through it.

(i) sketch and explain the I-V characteristics of a metallic conductor at constant
temperature, a semiconductor diode and a filament lamp.
(j) sketch the temperature characteristic of a thermistor.

## number of mobile charge vigour of vibration of lattice ions increases

carriers increase

## chances of collisions btw mobile charge

current increases carriers and lattice ions increases

## resistance decreases average drift velocity of mobile

(dominant effect for semiconductors) charge carriers decreases

## rate of charge flow (current) decreases

resistance increases
(dominant effect for metals)
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## 1. Metallic conductor at constant temperature (i.e. ohmic material)

I Low resistance

High resistance

I-V characteristics
Straight line, through the origin.

Significance
A metallic conductor at constant temperature is an ohmic conductor i.e. has
constant resistance (since straight line implies I being directly proportional to V).

Explanation
If the temperature of the conductor is kept constant, the number of mobile charge
carriers and vigour of lattice ion vibrations will remain the same. Hence its resistance
will remain constant.

2. Filament lamp
(contains a long thin wire made of metal with high melting point e.g.
tungsten.)

## Constant Increasing resistance due to

resistance increasing temperature

I-V characteristics
When the p.d. across the filament lamp is low, straight line through the origin.
As p.d increases, current through the filament lamp also increases, with decreasing

Significance
The resistance of a metallic conductor increases with temperature.

Explanation
Left-hand side of dotted line: When the p.d. across the filament lamp is low, the
current flowing through it is also low. The resulting heating effect (temperature
increase) is insignificant and resistance remains fairly constant.

Right-hand side of dotted line: As p.d. across the filament lamp increases, current
increases. Heating effect is significant, resulting in temperature increase.

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## Reason for characteristics:

• When applied potential difference increases, current increases and
temperature of the filament increases.
• This causes the lattice ions in the metal to vibrate more vigorously, causing
an increased rate of collision with the moving electrons.
• The increased rate of collision reduces the rate of flow of electrons, hence,
lowering the current flow.

## The overall effect is a lower current and an increase in resistance.

Example
Explain why filament lamps are more likely to fail when first turned on.

Since the filament lamp is colder (i.e. at room temperature), its resistance is initially
lower. When it is switched on, a large current flows through it, thus melting the
filament. Hence the filament lamp fails.

Comparatively, when the filament lamp has been switched on for a long time, its
temperature is high and hence its resistance is high, causing the current flowing
through the lamp to be lower.

## 3. Thermistor (all semiconductors)

I-V characteristics
When the p.d. across the thermistor is low, straight line through the origin.
As p.d increases, current through the thermistor also increases, with increasing I-V

Significance
The resistance of a thermistor decreases with temperature.

Explanation
Left-hand side of dotted line: When the p.d. across the thermistor is low, the current
flowing through it is also low. The resulting heating effect (temperature increase) is
insignificant and resistance remains fairly constant.

Right-hand side of dotted line: As p.d. across the thermistor increases, current
increases. Heating effect is significant, resulting in temperature increase.

## As temperature increases, increased vigour of lattice ion vibrations reduces the

average drift velocity. However, the number of mobile charge carriers increases more
significantly.

## The overall effect is an increase in current and a decrease in resistance.

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4. Semiconductor Diode

I-V characteristics
The I-V characteristic of a forward-biased semiconductor diode is similar to that of a
thermistor, i.e. resistance decreases as p.d. increases.

## The I-V characteristic of a reverse-biased semiconductor diode is nearly zero. If

reverse-biased p.d. is too high, the diode will break down and conduct electricity.

Significance
A diode has a low resistance in one direction (forward-biased direction) and a very
high resistance in the other direction (reverse-biased direction).

Explanation
For forward-biased, refer to explanation for thermistor.
For reverse-biased, it will be covered in greater details in the topic “Lasers and
Semiconductors” in J2.

ρl
(k) recall and solve problems using R = .
A

## The resistance R of a sample is directly proportional to its length l and inversely

proportional to its cross-sectional area A.

l

A
The relationship could be expressed as an algebraic equation by introducing a
constant of proportionality as follows:

ρl
R =
A

## where ρ is the resistivity of the material, in Ω m

R is the resistance of the sample, in ohms (Ω)
A is the cross-section area of the sample, in m2
l is the length of the sample, in metres (m)
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Hence,
RA
ρ =
l
Resistivity is the proportionality constant relating the resistance of a circuit
component to its length and cross-sectional area. It is a property of the material and
is dependent on temperature.

## Resistivity is useful when comparing various materials on their ability to conduct

electricity. A high resistivity means a sample of the material is a poor conductor. A
low resistivity means a sample of the material is a good conductor.

Worked Example 7
The resistivity of a material is 3.1 × 10-5 Ω m. Determine the resistance of a sample of the
material given that its length is 20 cm and its cross-section area is 2.0 mm2.

Solution
ρ l (3.1× 10−5 )(0.20)
R= = = 3.1 Ω
A (2.0)(0.001)2

(l) define e.m.f. in terms of the energy transferred by a source in driving unit charge
round a complete circuit.

Movement of charge carriers is possible only if they possess energy and are allowed
to dissipate their energy.

Sources like batteries and generators provide the energy to the charge carriers.
Available path(s) for charge carriers to dissipate their energy cause their movement.
Defining electromotive force (e.m.f.) in terms of:

energy power

## The electromotive force (e.m.f.) of a The electromotive force (e.m.f.) of a

source is defined as the energy source is defined as the rate of
converted from non-electrical to conversion of energy from non-
electrical per unit charge driven electrical to electrical per unit current
through the source. delivered by the source.

Mathematically,

## energy converted power converted

e.m.f. = e.m.f. =
charge current
W P
E = E = or P = EI
Q I

where

## E is the e.m.f. of the source, in volts (V) [Note: same as p.d.]

W is the energy converted, in joules (J)

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## Q is the electric charge moved, in coulombs (C)

P is the power converted, in watts (W)
I is the electric current delivered, in amperes (A)

## (m) distinguish between e.m.f. and p.d. in terms of energy considerations.

The e.m.f. of a source is defined using the energy converted from non-electrical to
electrical per unit charge driven through the source.

The p.d. between two points is defined using energy converted from electrical to non-
electrical per unit charge passing from one point to the other.

## (n) show an understanding of the effects of the internal resistance of a source of

e.m.f. on the terminal potential difference and output power.

In practice, no energy source (battery or generator) is perfect i.e. not all its energy is
delivered and some energy is wasted within itself. Some of the electrical energy
delivered by a source is always dissipated within itself.

The source is said to have internal resistance. When the external load is large, the
internal resistance has negligible effect. When the external load is not large, the
internal resistance can be depicted as a series resistor within the source as shown in
the diagram below.

The energy delivered by the source is then shared between its internal resistance

## energy supplied = energy converted (external + internal).

EIt = I2Rt + I2rt
E = IR + Ir
E = I(R+r)

The terminal p.d. is the potential difference across the source. It is equal to the
potential difference across the external circuit.

where

## V is the terminal p.d., in volts (V)

E is the e.m.f. of the source, in volts (V)

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## I is the electric current delivered, in amperes (A)

R is the resistance of the external circuit, in ohms (Ω)
r is the internal resistance of the source, in ohms (Ω)
It can be deduced that when the source is connected to an external circuit, the
terminal p.d. of the source is reduced by the amount Ir.

When the current I through the source is zero (such as when the external circuit is
open) then terminal p.d. V will be equal to the e.m.f. E.

When the internal resistance is negligible, the terminal p.d. will be approximately
equal to the e.m.f. E.

Alternatively, in terms of power, the power delivered by the source is shared between
its internal resistance and external load, i.e.

## power supplied = power dissipated (external + internal).

PE = PR + Pr
EI = I2R + I2r

The power dissipated internally (Pr = I2r) is wasted in heating up the energy source.
Only the power that is dissipated externally (PR = I2R) is available to the external
circuit so the efficiency of the source is always below 100%.

useful power VI I 2R R
Efficiency η = = = 2 =
total power EI I (R + r ) R + r

As the external load (R) is varied, the efficiency η of the source and the power
dissipated externally (PR) vary as shown:
η PR

1
Pmax

0.5

0 R=r R 0 R=r R

Note:

## • The efficiency of the source increases as the external load increases.

• The efficiency of the source is 50% when the external load is equal to the internal
resistance of the source.

• The power dissipated externally (PR) is maximum when the external load is
equal to the internal resistance of the source (Maximum Power Theorem).

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2 2 2
⎛ E ⎞ ⎛ E ⎞ ⎛E⎞ E2
Pmax = ⎜R +r ⎟ R = ⎜r +r ⎟ r = ⎜ ⎟ r =
⎝ ⎠ ⎝ ⎠ ⎝ 2r ⎠ 4r

Current in circuit, I
Worked Example 8
A battery of e.m.f. 12 V and internal resistance 0.014 Ω delivers a 2.0 A current when first
connected to a motor. Calculate the resistance of the motor.

Solution

## E = I(R+r) ⇒ 12 = 2.0(R + 0.014) ⇒ R = 5.99 Ω

Summary of formulae

## Learning Outcome Recall & Use

(c) Q = It
(e) W
V=
Q
(f) P = VI, P = I2R
(h) V = IR
(k) ρA
R=
A
(l) W
E=
Q

Summary of definitions/concepts

1 Electric current I: flow of charged particles per unit time (SI unit: A)

Q
I=
t

Potential difference (p.d.) V between two points: the energy converted from electrical to
2a
non-electrical per unit charge passing from one point to the other. (SI unit: V)

W
V=
Q

2b p.d between two points is also defined: power dissipated or rate of conversion of
electrical energy to other forms of energy per unit current between the points.

P
V=
I

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## 3a Temperature characteristics of a thermistor. In general, the resistance of a thermistor

decreases as its temperature increases.

T
Thermistor

3b Resistance R of a device: the ratio of the potential difference across it to the current
flowing through it. (SI unit: Ω)
V
R=
I

Ohm’s law: the current flowing in a metallic conductor is proportional to the p.d. across it,
provided that the physical conditions (i.e. temperature, stress) are constant.

I I
I

V V V
Metallic conductor at Filament bulb Thermistor
constant temperature

## The electrical resistance R of a given conductor is directly proportional to the conductor’s

length l and inversely proportional to the conductor’s cross sectional area A.

l ρl
R∝ ⇒R=
A A

## Resistivity ρ: the proportionality constant relating the resistance of a circuit component to

its length and cross-sectional area. It is a property of the material and is dependent on
temperature. (SI unit: Ω m)

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## Electromotive force (e.m.f.) of a source: energy converted from non-electrical to electrical

4
per unit charge driven through the source. (SI unit: V)

W P
E= , E= s
Q I

e.m.f. E p.d. V

## other forms of energy converted to electrical energy converted into other

electrical energy per unit charge forms of energy per unit charge.

## Battery: chemical energy → electrical Motor: electrical energy → mechanical

energy energy

Turbine: kinetic energy → electrical Light bulb: electrical energy → light &
energy heat energy

5 Internal resistance r: occurs when some of the electric power delivered by a source is
dissipated in the source itself.

## When the switch is closed, voltmeter V E

measures p.d. across resistor R. i.e. r

V = IR
I
E = V + Ir
V = IR V

= E - Ir
R

6a Power dissipated in device, P : rate at which device converts electrical energy to other
forms of energy. (SI unit: W)

V2
P = VI = I 2 R =
R

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6b Power supplied by source, PS : rate at which source converts other forms of energy to
electrical energy. (SI unit: W)

Ps = EI

Note: For power supplied by source, the emf E of the source is used instead, and the
equation Ps = EI is used for the calculation.

Acknowledgements
- Adapted from COE lecture notes 2011