### Defining Electric Current

- Electric current is
**the flow of charge**carriers and is measured in units of**amperes (**or*A*)**amps** - Charge can be either positive or negative
- When two oppositely charged conductors are connected together (by a length of wire), charge will flow between the two conductors, causing a current

- In electrical wires, the current is a flow of
**electrons** - Electrons are negatively charged; they flow away from the negative terminal of a cell towards the positive terminal
- Conventional current is defined as the flow of positive charge from the
**positive terminal of a cell to the negative terminal**- This is the opposite to the direction of electron flow, as conventional current was described before electric current was really understood

*By definition, conventional current always goes from positive to negative (even through electrons go the other way)*

- There are several examples of electric currents, including in household wiring and electrical appliances
- Current is measured using an
**ammeter** - Ammeters should always be connected in
**series**with the part of the circuit you wish to measure the current through

*An ammeter can be used to measure the current around a circuit and always connected in series*

### Quantisation of Charge

- The charge on charge carriers is
**quantised** - Charge comes in definite bits – e.g. a single
**proton**has a single**positive****charge**, whereas a single**electron**has a single**negative****charge** - In this way, the quantity of charge can be quantised dependent on how many protons or electrons are present – positive and negative charge has a definite
**minimum****magnitude**and always comes in multiples of that magnitude - This means that if we say something has a given charge, the charge is always a multiple of the charge of an electron by convention
- The charge of an electron is -1.60 × 10
^{-19}C - The charge of a proton by comparison is 1.60 × 10
^{-19}C (this is known as the elementary charge, denoted by*e*and measured in Coulombs (C) )

- The charge of an electron is -1.60 × 10

### The Coulomb

### Calculating Electric Charge

- Current can also be defined as the charge passing through a circuit per unit time
- Electric charge is measured in units of
**coulombs (***C*) - Charge, current and time are related by the following equation

*Charge equation*

#### Exam Tip

Although electric charge can be positive or negative, since the conventional direction of current is the flow of **positive **charge the current should always be a positive value for your exam answers.

### Calculating Current in a Current Carrying Conductor

- In a conductor, current is due to the movement of charge carriers
- These charge carriers can be negative or positive, however the current is always taken to be in the same direction
- In conductors, the charge carrier is usually free electrons
- In the image below, the current in each conductor is from right to left but the charge carriers move in opposite directions shown by the direction of the drift speed
*v*- In diagram A (positive charge carriers), the drift speed is in the
**same**direction as the current - In diagram B (negative charge carriers), the drift speed is in the
**opposite**direction to the current

- In diagram A (positive charge carriers), the drift speed is in the

*Conduction in a current-carrying conductor*

* *

- The drift speed is the average speed the charge carriers are travelling through the conductor. You will find this value is quite slow. However, since the number density of charge carriers is so large, we still see current flow happen instantaneously

- The current can be expressed in terms of the number density (number of charge carriers per unit volume)
*n*, the cross sectional area*A*, the drift speed*v*and the charge of the charge carriers*q*

*Current in a conductor equation*

* *

- The same equation is used whether the charge carriers are positive or negative