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14 Chapter One

leave the copper wire and enter the positive terminal, more electrons enter the
other end of the copper wire. These electrons are taken from the negative ter-
minal of the battery.
The difference of potential between the terminals of the battery is produced
by a chemical reaction. When the chemical activity in the battery stops, the cur-
rent stops.

Electron Flow (Current)


Current is the rate at which electrons move. If a point is established in the
copper wire (see Fig. 1-14c), the current can be measured by the number of
electrons that pass this point each second. Recall that a certain number of elec-
trons is a coulomb. When a coulomb of electrons moves past the spot in 1 second,
this amount of current is 1 ampere. One ampere represents 6.25 ⫻ 1018 electrons
passing a given point in 1 second. The current is 3 amperes when 18.75 ⫻ 1018
electrons pass a given point in 1 second.

Conductors
A conductor is a material that allows electrons to move easily. Copper is a good
conductor because it has an electron far away from the nucleus that can be
easily forced out of orbit. When the electrons in a material cannot be moved as
easily as in copper, the material is said to present a higher resistance to the
motion of charges. Good conductors are said to have a low resistance; poor con-
ductors (called insulators) have a high resistance. When a voltage is applied
to a material of high resistance (an insulator), there will be fewer electrons in
motion and less current than if the same voltage were applied to a material of
low resistance.

Resistance
The ease with which electrons move in a material determines its resistance.
A good conductor, such as copper, aluminum, or silver, has electrons that move
freely. A low voltage will move a lot of electrons. A good insulator, such as glass,
mica, or plastic, has electrons that do not move freely. Even a high voltage will
move only a few electrons.
Resistance can have a wide range. It can be as low as that of a good conductor
or as high as some good insulators. However, most resistances are somewhere
in between good conductors and good insulators. The unit of measurement for
resistance is the ohm (Ω). The ohm is defined as: One volt of pressure will push
1 coulomb of electrons through 1 ohm of resistance in 1 second.
Another way of saying it is that it takes 1 volt to push 1 ampere of electrons
through 1 ohm of resistance.