# SCIENCE HOBBYIST: Flowing Electrical Energy

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IN A SIMPLE CIRCUIT, WHERE DOES THE ENERGY FLOW?
A Collection of Diagrams
William Beaty

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Electronics students commonly assume that electrical energy flows inside metal wires. Physics students know differently! Normally the electrical energy doesn't flow inside of metals. In fact, the electrical energy being sent out by batteries and generators is located in empty space: it takes the form of electromagnetic fields surrounding the wires. The diagrams below will show us the details. While coils will store energy as a magnetic field outside the windings, and while capacitors will store energy as an electric field in the insulating layer between the metal plates, an electric circuit handles energy a bit differently. An electric circuit as a whole does both at once: it's both coil and capacitor. The energy which flows across a circuit is not moving through the interior of the metal wires. Instead it flows through the space surrounding the metal parts of the circuit. For example, whenever a battery powers a light bulb, the battery spews electrical energy into space! The electrical energy is then grabbed firmly by the wires and guided by them. The energy flows parallel to the wires, and eventually it dives into the light bulb filament. There it drives the metal's charges against the resisting force of electrical "friction," and the electrical energy gets converted into thermal energy. An electric circuit is like a duct for electrical energy, but this duct has no walls.

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Fig. 1 A SIMPLE CIRCUIT A battery is connected to a resistor such as a light bulb. The battery converts its chemical fuel into waste products, and the resistor gets hot.

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com/elect/poynt/poynt.) 2 de 8 31/03/2008 05:33 p. a flywheel hidden inside a closed ring of pipe.SCIENCE HOBBYIST: Flowing Electrical Energy http://amasci.m. 2 THE CONDUCTIVE PATH: CURRENT All conductive materials contain movable charges. we should be looking at them edge-on. It acts like a liquid flywheel. 3 THE MAGNETIC FIELD CAUSED BY THE CURRENT LOOP A circular electric current is an electromagnet. (Also: note that the physics name for the magnetic field is "B-field". The resistor and the battery's electrolyte both are conductive.html Fig. Note that I've slightly tilted the circles to make them visible. In reality. . The magnetic field-lines form rings around the conductors. Fig. When we include them with the wires. we can see that an electric circuit is a complete circle which is full of "fluid" charge.

) The circuit acts like two separate conductors. we need to draw more than just two patterns. one with a positive charge imbalance and one with negative.. the three-dimensional oblique view.. 3 de 8 31/03/2008 05:33 p.m. Then between each of those draw more and more. Fig. The end result looks like "tubes" of magnetic flux surrounding the wires.com/elect/poynt/poynt. 3A THE MAGNETIC FIELD CAUSED BY THE CURRENT LOOP Here's a better view of the above circuit.html Fig. .SCIENCE HOBBYIST: Flowing Electrical Energy http://amasci. To be more accurate. 4 TWO CHARGED CONDUCTORS: VOLTAGE Everything connected to one battery terminal acquires the same electrical potential (voltage. draw a third. Between the two patterns above.

5 THE ELECTRIC FIELD CAUSED BY THE OPPOSITE CHARGES The two charged wires act like the plates of a capacitor. "Force lines" of e-field spew out of one charged conductor and dive into the other. then draw more between those until the whole wire is covered with bent sheets of electrostatic flux which arcs between the wires.html Fig. 5A THE ELECTRIC FIELD CAUSED BY THE OPPOSITE CHARGES Again. . The two halves of the circuit act as opposite-charged wires with e-field flux connecting them.com/elect/poynt/poynt. In a full 3-D view we'd see the lines spreading outwards in radial star-shapes from each wire. Fig. This is a side view of the e-field in the plane of the circuit.SCIENCE HOBBYIST: Flowing Electrical Energy http://amasci. here's a 3D oblique view.m. 4 de 8 31/03/2008 05:33 p. As with figure 3A we need to draw a third pattern between the two above.

" Note that most of the flowing energy lies between the two wires. 5 de 8 31/03/2008 05:33 p. Also note that the E and B flux lines are always at 90 degrees to each other.m. . 6A E-FIELD AND B-FIELD TOGETHER The 3D oblique view of the two fields. Add more and more patterns between the two shown above. until empty space is packed full of "hair. 6 E-FIELD AND B-FIELD TOGETHER Fig. but quite a bit also surrounds the "cable pair" as a whole.SCIENCE HOBBYIST: Flowing Electrical Energy http://amasci. When we say that E and B in light waves are always perpendicular...com/elect/poynt/poynt.html Fig. the above diagram shows what such a thing looks like.

) Fig. It flows parallel to the connecting wires.com/elect/poynt/poynt.m. 7 THE ENERGY FLOW (POYNTING FIELD) Electromagnetic energy flows out of the battery and into the empty space around the circuit. . then it dives into the resistor. 8 ENERGY FLOW FIELD WITH E-FIELD IN GRAY Note that the energy always flows perpendicular to the lines of e-field 6 de 8 31/03/2008 05:33 p.html Fig. The field of energy flow is found by multiplying the e-field by the b-field (E x B vector cross-product.SCIENCE HOBBYIST: Flowing Electrical Energy http://amasci.

For example. and often persist well into adulthood. Worse. The real fields are 3D and volume-filling. Here's another version of my figure 7: page 417. 10 A SIMPLE CIRCUIT? When all the separate invisible phenomena are displayed together. 9 ENERGY FLOW WITH B-FIELD IN GRAY Note that the energy always flows perpendicular to the lines of b-field too. and performs EM-field energy flow analysis on capacitors and resistors. Feynman mentions the Poynting-flow concept in "The Feynman Lectures. Perhaps the reason is that. found in: 7 de 8 31/03/2008 05:33 p..armory. all physicists were taught that energy flows *inside* the wires. you can see why "electricity" might be a bit hard to understand. the speed which causes Skin Effect phenomena. And this diagram only shows a two-dimensional slice. . nor does he link the components together into a continuous system as with my figure 7 above.doesn't he know that the speed of light inside solid copper. so an accurate drawing would look like a black glob of hairs.html How can longwave EM pass through tiny holes? (bill b) Poynting-flow diagrams are *extremely* rare in physics texts..m.html Fig. and the majority of physics instructors seem unaware that they exist. is down in the meters per second range?) If the misconception that "energy flows inside wires" had such a deleterious effect on an honest free-thinker like Feynman. Fig 10-19. Childhood science misconceptions are extremely difficult to cure.com/elect/poynt/poynt. TEAL animated field diagrams: Magnetic fields e-fields Faraday induction: dynamic magnetic fields EM and waves Guided tour Right-angle circuitry (bill b) 'Electricity' is not energy (bill b) Understanding Electricity and Circuits: What the Text Books Don't Tell You (pdf) Unifying electrostatics and electric circuits Chabay & Sherwood 1999 (. at one point he bad-mouths the whole concept. and asserts that we should not change our original viewpoint. think how much trouble any more conventional minds would have with it. SEE ALSO: mit. a sort of side view of the fields. They frequently remain unexamined. Fig.SCIENCE HOBBYIST: Flowing Electrical Energy http://amasci.com/~rstevew/Public/Tutor/RoyMcC_Waves/index.edu. but he doesn't analyze 2-wire transmission lines. but instead suggests that we continue to assume that the energy flows inside the copper! Feynman? Counsiling dishonesty rather than harnessing this "alternate toolkit?" Amazing." Chapter 27. as children. (And .PDF) Roy McCammon's GIFs of electric and magnetic fields in EM waves: http://www.

Capacitors Sale Low Cost Gauss Meter High Energy Capacitor All Kinds of Electric Capacitor Used Pocket Watch Size Gauss Meter for OEM of high energy density film Widely.mac-ndt.com/elect/poynt/poynt.html Created and maintained by Bill Beaty.6kV www.com/Capacitor measurement www. Mail me at: Best if viewed with ANY Browser.gaep. up to 2.com www. 8 de 8 31/03/2008 05:33 p.com http://amasci.html ELECTROMAGNETICS 2nd Ed.SCIENCE HOBBYIST: Flowing Electrical Energy http://amasci. Quality & Low Price! Fast Residual Magnetism capacitors. Kraus & Keither R. Carver. .m. McGraw-Hill 1973 This is interesting. .com/elect poynt/poynt.com Voice Coil Motor & Stages High performance short stroke <50mm linear voice coil motors and stages www. John D.tootoo. because it shows one place where poynting vector energy flow is a crucial idea: Antenna Design! Kraus Electromagnetics is essentially an antenna design book aimed at physics students.equipsolutions..6J/cc at 6.