# Understanding Conductors and Capacitors in Electric Circuits

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## Introduction

In the world of physics, understanding conductors, capacitors, and electric circuits forms a fundamental basis for the study of electricity. Each of these components plays a critical role in the functioning of electronic devices and in the manipulation of electric fields. This article delves into the nuanced behaviors of conductors, the principles of capacitors, and how they interact within electric circuits, all while maintaining a focus on the underlying electric fields and charges involved.

## Understanding Conductors

### What is a Conductor?

A conductor is a material that allows for the easy flow of electric current due to the presence of free-moving electrons. Common examples include metals such as copper and aluminum. When a charge is applied to a conductor, it causes an electrical field within it, which leads to the rearrangement of charges.

### Charge Distribution in Conductors

When an electric charge is brought near a conductor, it induces a distribution of charges on the surface of the conductor. The induced charges create an electric field that neutralizes the external field within the conductor. This behavior illustrates:

- The principle of electrostatics where excess charge resides only on the surface of conductors.
- The concept of equipotential surfaces within the conductor, meaning the entire conductor is at a constant voltage, preventing any electric field inside.

## Capacitors

### What is a Capacitor?

A capacitor is an electrical device used to store energy in the form of an electric field. It consists of two conductive plates separated by an insulating material called a dielectric.

### Charging a Capacitor

When a voltage is applied across the plates of a capacitor, it accumulates charge, with one plate acquiring a positive charge and the other a negative charge. The relationship between charge (Q), voltage (V), and capacitance (C) is given by the formula: [ Q = C imes V ] where capacitance is defined by the equation: [ C = \frac{\varepsilon_0 A}{d} ] with ( \varepsilon_0 ) as the permittivity of free space, A as the area of the plates, and d as the separation between them.

### Energy Storage in Capacitors

The energy (U) stored in a capacitor can be expressed as: [ U = \frac{1}{2} Q V = \frac{1}{2} C V^2 ] This energy is stored in the electric field created between the plates of the capacitor.

## Electric Circuits

### Introduction to Electric Circuits

Electric circuits are pathways through which electric current flows. The basic components of an electric circuit include a voltage source, resistors, and capacitors. Understanding how these components interact is crucial for analyzing and designing circuits.

### Ohm's Law and Resistance

Ohm's Law relates voltage (V), current (I), and resistance (R) in a circuit: [ V = I imes R ]

**Voltage (V)**is the electrical potential difference.**Current (I)**is the rate of flow of electric charge.**Resistance (R)**is a measure of the opposition to current flow in a conductor.

### The Role of Resistors

Resistors are used to control current flow within a circuit. The heat generated by the resistance results from energy being dissipated as the electric charges collide within the material.

## Capacitor Behavior in Circuits

### Discharge of a Capacitor

When a capacitor discharges through a resistor, the current decreases exponentially over time. The voltage across the capacitor also drops according to the equation: [ Q(t) = Q_0 e^{-t/(RC)} ] where ( Q_0 ) is the initial charge, R is the resistance, and C is the capacitance of the capacitor. This exponential decay indicates that a capacitor will never completely discharge, taking an infinite amount of time to do so.

### Energy Conservation During Discharge

As the capacitor discharges, the stored energy is transformed into thermal energy within the resistor. The rate of energy consumption can be calculated using the power formula: [ P = I^2 R ] Integrating this over time will show that the total energy dissipated matches the initial energy stored in the capacitor.

## Conclusion

In summary, understanding the intricate relationships between conductors, capacitors, and electric circuits is fundamental to the study of electric principles. As you delve deeper into these concepts, you will appreciate how they interconnect to form the backbone of modern electronics. From the flow of current through conductors to the behavior of capacitors in storing energy, this knowledge equips you to tackle more complex electrical problems and applications in the future.

Prof: When I look at you guys, I realize that I don't know what most of you look like. That's the problem in a big class like this.

Usually it would be nice if you know who your students are. If they say hello, you can say hello back, but I don't know what I can do about it, because if I focus on

you, I forget what I'm going to talk about. But you know what I look like, and it's kind of an unnerving asymmetry, because you might become my doctor one day.

You'll be wearing a mask and carrying a knife, and you'll be thinking of problem set number three, right?

And I won't even know who did it, so it's very asymmetric. All right. Okay, so anyway, maybe I'll get to know you if

you ask a lot of questions, or your favorite pastime, finding something wrong on the blackboard. Look at that.

because I think I rushed some of the topics near the end and I thought about it some more, so I think it will be helpful to revisit this question about image charges.

I want you to think about what the point was. So here's the main thing: you all know how to think about the potential or the field, right?

I give you a bunch of charges and you calculate the potential and you take derivatives, you get the field. Sometimes that's not the only kind of problem you have to

and you bring some electric charge, what does it do? That's a meaningful question, because it does something, right?

And nature calculates right away and does something. But if you want to figure out what happens, it's quite complicated, so a somewhat easier problem is

the case of the perfectly conducting potato, which is kind of solid metal, shaped like whatever you like. You bring a charge next to it, what happens?

That question occurs a lot, because we do electrical experiments in the presence of many conductors. And the simple thing about a conductor is,

the whole conductor is one potential. So I want to take a simple problem and see if we can answer it.

Now most problems, you cannot answer. By "cannot answer" I don't mean in principle. In principle, we know the equations,

we can solve them, including the real potato. You can actually figure out everything, but it's too hard. You cannot write it in simple form.

There are a few simple textbook examples where you can ask the question and you can answer. And the question you want to ask is, here is an infinite

conducting plane and it is grounded. Grounded means what? You take a wire and you connect it to the earth.

Now the point of connecting to the earth is that the earth is pretty close to being an object at 0 potential. In other words, if you bring a charge from

infinity to the earth, the amount of work you do you can take to be 0. And on a daily basis, people are dumping charge,

people are taking charge out of it, but it's so huge, it doesn't matter. It's like one of the reservoirs you studied in thermodynamics.

You can take some heat, you can put some heat. It doesn't change its temperature. So the earth is a huge repository where you can take a

few charges now and put a few back. It will always remain at 0. It will force you also to go to 0 potential.

So that is that plane, and you have another charge, q, you slowly bring towards that plane. You may like to know what's the answer to this problem.

What does the field look like everywhere? Now this plane, for convenience, I'm going to be taking to be infinite.

If you want a side view of that plane, it looks like this. It divides the whole universe into two parts, where you are with your charge and the rest on the other side.

So what will this plane do? You can see that if it did nothing, it's in trouble. If it did nothing, this charge at that distance

will produce a positive potential. At that distance, it will produce an even bigger positive potential, because it's closer.

So different parts of the sheet will be at different potentials. That's not allowed. It's an equipotential.

It's a metal. It's got to arrange its potential to be constant, and because it's connected to the ground, that constant has to

be 0. So the way it will lower its potential from your attempts to raise it is to suck up some negative charges from the

ground. So negative charge will leave the ground and somehow come and stand in front of this positive charge,

maybe something like this, over some region roughly proportional to the distance between you and the plane. Then what will happen is, the electric field lines,

which normally go through the metal if it wasn't there, will now of course have to come and terminate on that metal, and they have to terminate perpendicularly because the

electric field is always perpendicular to the conductor. You know why, right? Because if you move along the conductor, the potential cannot

change, so the line integral of E must be 0, but basically, you should not feel any force as you move along the plane.

So E is perpendicular. So some bunch of charges will be drawn from the ground, as necessary, and this is what will happen.

The question is, can you say anything more in detail? Can you actually calculate the charge distribution on this

infinite plane? Can you calculate the force of attraction between the charge you have and the infinite plane?

You know there's going to be attraction because your charge I take to be positive, and this has got negative. They'll attract.

What is the attraction? These are all well-defined questions and they exist no matter what this is made of.

But for this infinite plane, we can actually answer it So we answer by the following device, which is what I was trying to tell you last time.

If you take that infinite plane, your conditions are that it should be at 0 potential and to the left of it should be the charge q that I put in.

These are the requirements. So you dream up another problem. That's a charge -q, same distance d from

Think of a new problem, and -q, and you've done that many, many times. The lines go like this.

And you know that on the perpendicular bisector, the lines will be perpendicular, because the potential everywhere is 0,

right? Potential is a scaler and whatever this guy does, that will do - of that, because it's at the same

Now if you take that arrangement and look what's happening to the left of the plane, it looks like exactly what we want in our problem.

What we demand in our problem is in this part of the universe where I live, there should be charge q, there should be infinite plane at 0 potential.

That condition is satisfied by this field configuration in the following sense. Start with this configuration and stick in the infinite plane,

but give it the charge it needs to terminate all these field lines. How much charge will it need?

You can tell right away. What's the total charge on this plane? Because all the lines leaving this have to terminate on this.

You can see it'll be -q. It won't be point charge; it'll be spread out, but you need -q on this.

So what we say is, if you brought the plane in and either you give it -q in advance, or you connected it to the ground, in which case it will

itself suck up -q. It'll form this configuration here, so the infinite plane is able to remain where it is without disturbing the solution

to the problem. Therefore the answer to the original question of what happens when you put a q in front of an infinite plane is

that as far as you're on the left of this, you can compute anything you want by taking q and the image charge, -q.

The field the two of them will produce will be exactly the field this guy and all these induced charges will produce. So this is a way of taking a solution for a simple problem

with an equipotential, sticking a conductor into the equipotential, and giving it the right charge. Then the problem of a charge in front of a conductor is thereby

solved. Now there are some mathematical theorems--I don't have time to prove but they're not too hard in fact.

I thought of lecturing on that, but there isn't enough time-- that show that if you can find one answer that has the right behavior at the boundary of the region,

Where is the -q, right? We know that it's got to be -q because these lines are all ending here.

But what's your intuition? Where do you think it will be? You think it'll be evenly distributed?

What's your feeling? Student: Probably more towards the middle. Prof: Yeah, more towards in front of this

guy, and less when you go up. Now we can actually calculate that quantity. We can tell you exactly how much it will be by the following

trick - we agree that to the region to the left, this charge is able to fake the effect of all these charges. That's why it's called a mirror charge.

When you stand in front of a mirror, you are here and there is another person in the mirror. And the light bouncing off and coming here looks like it's

coming from this image. So to the left of the mirror, either you can talk about you and the mirror and the reflected light, or forget the reflected

light. It's as if there's another person behind the mirror. Of course, you know there is no other person behind the mirror,

But as far as this side is concerned, it's a lot easier to draw a line from the mirror, because that will simulate the effect of what's happening

through the mirror. Similarly, as long as you are interested only in the left of this region, you cannot tell the difference

between the infinite plane with its induced charge, and this guy, versus this guy and just one other charge.

Another question was, where is the charge and how is it distributed? You agree that if you knew the electric field here,

you can find the charge density, because if you draw a little Gaussian surface like that, then we know the σ/ε_0 is

the electric field. So if you know the electric field, you can find sigma, and I find the electric field very simply by saying that's the

repulsion from this q, there's an attraction from that q. If you add the two, you get the sum,

which I can calculate, a very simple sum. It's the contribution from two point charges. You can calculate it as a function of this angle here or

as the function of the distance here, and that will tell you what σ is. And it will have the property you expect.

It'll be largely in front of this guy and will vanish very quickly when you move away from him. If you integrate that surface charge density over the plane,

you will in fact get -q. So you've answered some of the questions, namely, how will the charge distribute itself on this infinite plane?

Next thing you can ask is, what's the force of attraction between this one and this one? Now, is it really the same as this one and this one?

The answer is yes, and the reason is the following - in this region, for example, the field is due to this guy, and due to all these,

but that's the same as this guy and this guy. This one of course doesn't respond to its own field. It responds to the field of all of these.

But all of these precisely have the same field to the left as this one charge, therefore this will be pulled towards the one charge.

It thinks it's falling towards the other charge, but it's not actually falling towards the plane. And the force will be q times -q over

so you can calculate that too. Normally it's a difficult problem, because the image charge reduces the problem of a very complex conductor to that

Prof: Yes, thank you. Then you can also ask, what is the energy it takes to assemble this distribution, starting from this one at

infinity and this one here, and if you integrate this force, you can do the integral and you'll find −q^(2)/4 Πε

It's half as much because if in real life you had a and a -q and you brought them together, you will be exerting forces on both of them and calculating the

work done. But in this actual example of an infinite plane, you only do work on this guy, therefore the answer will be

electromagnetic field, which I'll tell you about later today, will be half as much as before, because in the fake problem, the energy is here and here.

Student: For the potential energy, is it 1 over 4d or 1 over...? Prof: You would think it's 1 over 2d,

So let's not take it to be infinite in this problem. It's 1 million miles in radius, huge disc. You bring the charge in.

What's it supposed to do? It cannot suddenly acquire a negative charge. Charge conservation says you only have the charge you have,

Prof: It will split into positive and negative charges. Let's see what to do with the positive charges in a minute. The negative charges, it will arrange exactly the way

it wants to in this problem, okay? That takes care of this being at a constant potential of 0. But it's got an equal number of positive charges,

which you've got to dump on this infinite plane, without ruining the constant potential. The way to do that is to put it uniformly on this plane.

If you spread it uniformly on the plane, you don't destroy the equal potential nature. But it turns out that field will be very,

very, very small. It will be very small, because you're taking a charge q and you're putting it on a huge disc,

like the radius of the galaxy. That's the charge density and that over ε_0 will be the electric field.

You can see that that can be made vanishingly small. So the infinite plane, basically you borrow from somewhere a positive charge and negative charge,

and you put the negative in this particular arrangement. Positive is smeared over the whole thing uniformly. It is so dilute, because of the size of it,

it doesn't matter. But it principle, that amount of positive charge will be a background constant.

That way the infinite plane will be a little strange, because you don't see the richness of the phenomenon of the infinite plane because it can basically create negative

charge and not fully account for the positive charge, because it's smeared over a huge distance. So a problem that's more interesting would be this one.

I take a sphere of radius a, it's a conducting sphere. And after distance b, I put a charge q.

What will happen now? Again, now let me say this is a grounded sphere, meaning it's connected to the earth.

It's maintained at 0 potential. So it's not very different from the plane, except you've got a huge sphere now instead of an infinite plane,

but it's finite. You come around from infinity, you can see that some negative charges will be induced on this, and some lines will come here.

And some lines may go past like this. Because this is a finite sphere, not every line has to terminate here.

Now the question is, what will be the charge distribution? How will it arrange itself, and what will be the surface

electric field and so on? That's what you want to calculate? So what kind of problem do you think we should try to solve?

Student: You could put a charge on the other side of the sphere? Prof: Okay, that's not a bad guess.

If you put a charge on the other side of the sphere, then in the universe in which you're living, namely outside the conductor, things have changed,

It was outside. The problem you defined yourself should remain the same where you are, but you can do stuff inside the

region that's excluded from you. So you're almost right. We want to put a charge inside here.

And where do you think you should put it, roughly? Can you make a guess where in the sphere it will be?

Student: Center? Prof: Center is a good guess, but it turns out, if you put it in the center, this doesn't turn out to be a

You don't want to put it anywhere else. So I will give you the answer. It's not very hard to calculate.

If you put a charge q' at a distance s, which is a^(2)/b, and the size of q' is -qa/b, a/b is less than

This is something you can do for fun. You can go and calculate now the potential of this negative and smaller charge together with this positive charge q

and you will find, if you put q'/r for that, and q/r for this guy, it will be exactly 0 on this

sphere, centered here. So it's another fortunate thing that you can get a spherical equipotential by taking two unequal charges--

not two equal, two unequal charges-- and putting it slightly off center by this amount. Let's not do the algebra now.

You can all imagine doing q'/r' and you'll find it's equal to q/r, up to a sign, and therefore it will be in

fact-- you can always make two things cancel at one point, but they cancel over an entire sphere.

Can they end up anything but perpendicular to a conductor? Student: Oh, right, no. Prof: No, because if it's got a

tangential part, it will move the charges. So charges, once they've come to equilibrium, the only force you can apply to a conductor is normal to the

surface. So the lines will terminate in the normal way. So the problem you want to solve, the fake problem,

the image problem, is a −q' and a q so located you get a sphere. Now you go and say, let me take another problem of

a conducting sphere. There's nothing in it, grounded. What it will do is suck from the ground this charge and

spread it exactly the way you want in this problem. And then it will come to 0 potential. So ground is here, 0 potential.

If you want to know, what is the electrostatic potential there in this problem, we can do that now. What's the electrostatic potential here?

It is due to this guy at that distance and the fake charge at that distance. You should add them with the proper sign.

So the problem of the field due to very complicated distribution of charges on a conducting sphere and a point charge is reduced to the problem of 2 point charges.

Very easy to add their potentials, take the derivative and find the field. If you want to know the surface charge density,

you find the electric field at the surface. It will come out to be perpendicular. Then σ/ε_0 =

E, therefore if you knew E in magnitude, you can find sigma and you can find the charge distribution on the whole sphere.

If you integrate that guy, what will you get for the charge distribution on the surface? What should it give for the total charge?

Pardon me? Use Gauss's law for the real problem and the fake problem. In the real problem, surface integral of E is

the charge on the sphere. But the same E is produced in this combination with this guy here.

The surface integral of E is a charge enclosed, which is q', after some epsilons. Therefore the charge on the sphere will turn out to be

exactly the same as the q'. Just like in the plane, there'll be some negative charge, but it's spread out in a particular way and you can

In other words, it's an isolated sphere and you're bringing a charge near it. It wants a certain negative charge to spread on the surface

to produce a zero potential here, but you don't have negative charge. You have zero charge.

So what will you do if you are that sphere? You will say 0 = q' -q'. You would split into q' and −q'.

The q' will arrange itself on the sphere to exactly terminate these field lines. The only difference is, now you've got a charge,

-q', left over. You have to spread it around and you don't want to screw up the equal potential nature of the sphere by doing that.

You can all guess what you should do. You should spread it uniformly on that sphere. So it will contain negative charge distribution,

which is biased in this direction, and a positive charge distribution that's uniform in it. Then the three of them together, this one,

the positive charge, I put here of −q' and this one, three of them together will keep the sphere at a constant potential.

The potential it ends up with will however not be 0, because q' and q made it 0, but you have a −q' at the center,

therefore you must find the potential due to −q' on the surface of the sphere, which is that.

That's the potential to which the sphere will come. So we have answered many questions. We have said if you bring a charge q near the

sphere, what potential will it acquire? It will acquire exactly this potential. You can predict the charge on the sphere.

Because the field that this one feels generally, the field at any point is due to this one, this one and this one.

But if you want the force on this one, if you'd only find the field due to the other two guys. But the other two guys, namely the sphere with all the

charges on it, is simply equal to 2 point charges. So you must find the force between these 2,

add to that the force between these two and you'll get something. That will be the force.

It will be a force of attraction, but you can actually calculate it. This is the trick by which you can solve a variety of problems

by finding equal potentials of nice shapes. Maybe one will be a nice ellipsoid, because if it is an ellipsoid, you can stick an ellipsoid there.

And inside the ellipsoid will be the image charge. And if the ellipsoid is grounded, you'll get whatever charge is needed to maintain that at 0.

If it's not grounded, it will split into positive and negative charges, where the negative will distribute this way, and the positive will

distribute itself in some way, so that the potential is a constant. For a sphere, we know what that some way is,

which is uniform. So the reason I took some time to describe this is that problems are not always finding the potential due to a bunch of

charges. That's the easiest problem, but more generally you are asked, if you're given a set of conductors and a bunch of

charges, what happens? If the conductors have a nice shape, like a sphere or a plane, or certain solids of

revolution, we can appeal to a different problem with image charges and solve it. Now there's a wonderful theorem that says if you get a solution

this way, it's the only solution. In other words, there's a theorem, which I'm not going to write down,

which says if in all of space that you're interested in, or at least in a region bounded by something, if you know the potential of the boundary and you've got a

whole bunch of conductors, each one at a known potential, and you've got a whole bunch of charges, there can be only one potential function,

V(r), in this whole region. You cannot have two answers. There's only one answer to that question.

In other words, the potential is completely determined by knowing the charge distribution, and the potential on the various conductors you stick

into that. They don't all have to be to 0. This can be at 5 volts, this can be at 9 volts,

This is say this sphere at infinity of 0 potential, there's only one answer. It's called the uniqueness theorem,

which is why, if you can find some way to fudge the answer in a given region, which is completely specified, that is the answer.

So that is the interlude on metallic objects called conductors. Now I'm going to go to the other problem that I did towards

the end, which is the notion of a capacitor. So if you take two blobs of metal, they are both neutral. Then you grab maybe a coulomb from this and stick it there,

so that becomes positive and this becomes negative. Then you want to take more, you take more stuff, you can see that you're going to run into resistance,

because these guys are getting positively charged. They don't want more positive charges. Meanwhile the negative charge you leave behind wants it to

come back, so you're working against that. But you do some work and you start pumping charge into this. So in the end, suppose you have a charge

Q there and charge -Q there. Then there will be a potential energy difference between the two, because there's a certain amount of work needed to go from

here to there. The potential difference is a unique number, because the whole solid has one potential, other solid has

another potential. No matter where you start and where you end, if you find the work done, that potential difference we

like to call V. Therefore V is always going to be proportional to Q and the constants of proportionality we like to write

downstairs and call it capacitance. So that's the ability of the system to hold charge. If you've got any two metal containers, you can store energy

by drawing the charges from one to the other, putting them there. I did calculate the capacitance for a very simple system and I'm

going to stick to the simple system because we don't want to get lost in the details. It's the parallel plate capacitor in which I put some

charge Q on the upper plate and -Q on the lower plate. Someone says, what's the capacitance of the

system? For that, you must find the voltage difference between the two plates, and you want to take Q over V.

So the voltages difference will be the electric field times the distance, because that's what the line integral will be. That's the distance between the plates.

It's not going to be simply like this, but we take it to be so large in this extent that the edge effects are neglected. Then this formula is valid.

Then you can compare it to Q/C and you can see C is ε_0 a/d. So this is what I have done towards the end

of class. That's the capacitance of that. Once again, you can talk about capacitance, but you cannot

always calculate it. You can take two irregular metallic objects and in principle for a transfer of charge q.

There will be a voltage v, and the ratio is the capacitance, but you cannot compute it. But for a parallel plate geometry, or another one I did

in class near the end, you take two concentric spheres and put some charge on this one, maybe and - on that one, you all know how to find the field in the region in between.

You can integrate it and you can find the potential difference. And then you can see it is proportional to Q,

and you take the ratio, you'll get the capacitance of that. Now the point, one thing I want to calculate,

which also I think I started doing is, if I take a capacitor and I charge it, from 0 to some charge Q_0,

what's the total amount of energy stored in the capacitor? So the way I think about it is, I take some intermediate situation, when there's a charge Q on the capacitor,

not the final amount. Then I want to take a little amount of charge dQ and I want to move it from the negative to the positive.

Since at that stage the potential difference is Q/C that potential difference times dQ is the work you do.

That's the definition of potential difference, how much work it takes to move a coulomb from one plate to the other.

If you're moving dQ coulombs, that's the work you do. You integrate that from 0 to some maximum value

Forget the 0, subscript 0. Usually Q stands for the charge of a capacitor. But you can also write it in another way.

So the energy in the capacitor is ½CV^(2), but I'm going to play with that expression and get a very interesting result, very profound.

It's a volume of the region that contains the electric field. Before you charge a capacitor, there is no energy and there is

no field. Once you charge the capacitor, you've got a field. And if you wish, you can say I've got to ascribe

that energy to the fact that it's a non-zero field, in which case, this is the energy per unit volume, due to an electric field.

That's a very interesting notion. Little u is the energy per unit volume and that happens to be ε_0 E^(2)/2.

In other words, it takes energy to establish the electric field. So in this room, if you've go to a tiny region

where E is essentially constant over the tiny region. ε_0 E^(2)/2 times the tiny volume is the energy in that tiny region.

So once you've got an electric field, it just cannot just disappear. Law of conservation of energy will require that you account

for it, and this is the energy per unit volume. It turns out to work even if you've got radio waves, electromagnetic waves, going anywhere,

to take that energy, electric field squared times epsilon over 2, that's the energy density. All right, so this is really the end of what I wanted to

finish last time, but I wanted to go back to the study of equipotentials and conductors. But now I am setting the stage for electrical circuits.

Now this is the kind of thing some of you probably did somewhere in high school. So how many people have done basic circuits in high school?

So I'm going to assume you've done some of it, so I won't do it in that detail, but I will mention all the essential facts.

For the few of you that didn't do it, you have a chance to keep up with the class. The first thing in electrical circuits is, you've got some

wire and you've got an electric current flowing in it. We need a description of the current. The current is defined as follows.

Imagine this is the perfect cylinder, cross section A. You cut it somewhere and you watch all the charges go by,

and you see the number of coulombs that go by per second. That's called the electric current and is measured in amperes.

So 1 coulomb per second is 1 amp. All right, now let us ask, what's the connection between the electric current and what's going on microscopically?

So let n = number of carriers per unit volume. Let e be the charge of a carrier. Now here is one of the biggest nuisances in life.

As you know, in a wire, the current is carried by electrons. Because the charge is negative, when you draw a picture like

this, the current to the right, electrons are actually moving to the left. What we will instead do is to just keep an eye on the

direction of the current. You imagine there are positively charged objects carrying the current in the direction of the current,

whereas in reality, it's negatively charged objects moving in the opposite direction that produce the same current. So you can ask yourself, if you wait 1 second,

how many coulombs will go past this checkpoint? You can see that it's a cylinder whose length is the velocity, because in 1 second, it will have gone v

times 1 second. All those guys have crossed the finish line. Therefore the current will be A times v (is the

volume of stuff that's gone), that's the number of carriers in the volume, that's the charge of each carrier.

That's the total current. So we like to define a quantity called the current density, which is the current per unit area.

That will be equal to nev. And actually, current density is a vector so if you want, because velocity is a vector, you can make it a

vector like that. In this problem, the current density is uniform. In fact, in any wire, the current here and the

current there and the current there do not change, because if it changed, charges will pile up in some places like a traffic jam.

Then it will resist it till this thing evens out. Current is constant on a wire. Need not be uniform across a cross section of the wire,

but I'm going to take it to be uniform. But if it's not constant, then you can have a J that's varying with space, so the current crossing that

little patches, dA, then as we have seen many times, whenever something is flowing, it's the dot product of the flow rate with the area that

measures the actual flow. You add it over the surface, that's the current crossing a surface.

We won't use this formula very much. I'm just mentioning it for completeness. All right, so the next question is, I've told you there is no

electric field inside a conductor. But if you take a resistor, even a nice thing like copper, it's not a perfect conductor.

Actually, there's an electric field inside a conductor. That's what makes a current flow. If you want any wire to carry current, except for ideal wires

that have no resistance, any realistic conductor needs a field to drive it. The reason is that if you look microscopically at these

carriers, they're all going like crazy in all directions. That's precisely why they don't carry a current. They don't have a common direction.

They're going very fast but they're going nowhere. One of these guys is going to the right. For every one going to the right, there's one to the left,

one going northeast and one going southwest. The velocity all averages out to 0. But if you apply an electric field to the right,

you can imagine somehow in the middle of all this chaos, there'll be an overall tendency to drift to the right. So let's see how much there is.

I found that the current density was nev. Forget about the vector sign now. Just everything is along x.

I want to find here an average velocity. What's going to be the average velocity over all the particles at a given time?

Now here's the picture of conduction. You should in fact find it very paradoxical that when you have an electric field, the electric field produces a

force e times E, has an acceleration a, so the charges should accelerate. If they accelerate more and more, the current should keep on

growing because velocity is growing. But you get a steady current, in spite of a force acting to the right.

Do you know why that happens? Why doesn't everything accelerate and pick up more and more and more speed?

Student: Resistance. Prof: It is resistance, but microscopically, why don't these particles pick up speed forever?

They collide. They collide with basically the impurities in the solid. And every time they hit their head on one of the impurities,

they don't know what happened, and they bounce off the collision in a totally random direction. So they may go in this direction, hit an impurity.

There's no telling which way they'll come out. They can come out in any direction with equal probability.

So they'll lose all memory of what they were doing after each collision. Now if I look at my clock, and I look at the entire set of

electrons and I say, what's the average velocity? The average velocity, which I denote with a bar, is obtained by averaging individual velocity.

Individual velocity is the velocity at time 0 since the last collision, plus eE/m times t_i.

Let us say it has been t_i seconds since it had its last collision. So just after the collision, it has got initial velocity

which is completely random, but since that thing, because the electric field it has been accelerating, it has not collided with anything yet,

so its velocity will be eE/m times t_i. Therefore the average velocity, which you find by the averaging

of everything, has the following property - the first one will give you 0. If you average over all possible initial velocities,

they'll be 0, because they're pointing in random directions. So what you really need is eE/m times some

τ, where τ is the name for the average time since the last collision. That time will have a range of values.

Some guys will have just collided; some won't have collided for a long time. So you have to find that average, and we don't know how

to compute it right now, but that is some average t_i for a material. The larger the t_i is,

the better the conductor it is, because it can go for a long time on average without colliding. So the whole idea is, the minute you collide,

you lose everything, because you scatter off, forgetting your memory. So any coherent motion you have in the direction of the field is

there only because you have not yet collided. So the net current is a function of how many seconds have elapsed since the last collision for each guy.

On average, it gives you this. So if you use the symbol tau for that, therefore the current density will be ne times the average v.

So this is the very, very important result. So I'm going to go back and study this result. It tells you that the current density in a wire is there

thanks to the electric field and the number in front of it happens to be the number of carriers e^(2)τ/m.

That's why they even know which way to flow. If you don't have a field in a wire, the current doesn't know which way to flow.

It's just random motion, not going anywhere, like molecules in this room. They're not going anywhere in particular, even though they're

moving. You are saying that the current that you're going to get for unit area is bigger if you have a bigger density of carriers.

That makes sense, because they're the ones carrying the charge. This is inversely proportional to the mass.

You can understand why. The electric field, whatever force it produces, the acceleration is inversely proportional to the mass.

The bigger the τ, the bigger the response, because they can go for a longer time on average before colliding, therefore they have more time

to pick up speed in the direction of the field. e^(2) is interesting. One e comes because the force on the carrier is little

e times big E. The second e comes because the current it carries is itself proportional to e.

You understand? The charge of the carrier affects it in two ways. Any time it moves, it carries a charge e.

How much it moves depends on the force the electric field exerts on it. That's another e.

So this is our expression. And we write it as σ times E, where sigma is called the conductivity.

You notice that this argument doesn't care what material it is. It could be copper, it could be aluminum,

What depends on the actual carrier, the mass is just the mass of the electron. τ is what varies from problem to problem.

Some materials have very large τ, some materials are very small τ. That's what decides how good or bad a conductor it is

Suppose you have a wire. What is the total current in the wire? The total current in the wire is the current density times

area, which is σAE. Now let us say this E was obtained by applying the voltage difference V between the two end points of a

The electric field times the length of the wire is the voltage difference between the two end points. So rather than saying the current is driven by the

electric field, let's say the current is driven by the voltage difference between the two ends of the wire.

That's why I wrote E as V/L. But now you see it looks like V/R that R is by definition is called the resistance of that wire.

It's measured in ohms, as denoted by this symbol. This is how you get ohm's law, because just by going through the microscopic equation, and applying it for a wire of

length L, I'm able to find that the current is proportional to V, divided by some number.

That number looks like L/Aσ, also written as Lρ/A, where ρ = 1/σ is called the resistivity.

It's just the inverse of the conductivity. So the bigger the resistivity, the bigger the resistance, but notice, if the wire is twice as long,

the resistance of the wire will be twice as big. Does that make sense to you? For a given material, if you double the length of the

wire, resistance is double. If you double the area, resistance is turned into half its value, because if you've got a big

wire, you can think of it as two wires that are carrying the current together, therefore the resistance is half as much.

So this is the relation between resistivity and the resistance. As far as we are concerned, the main thing for us is just ohm's law, which we are going to use -

V = IR, and this is telling you roughly where you get it. So what's the summary of all this talk?

In a wire, unlike in a perfect conductor, there is an electric field. And it's the electric field that keeps the charges moving.

But whereas an electron, for example, in the vacuum electric field that will accelerate indefinitely.

The carriers in the wire do not accelerate indefinitely because they keep bumping into stuff, and every time they bump into stuff, they lose the gain they had.

They start all over again. So at any given time, the activity I have or the motion I have depends on how many guys are still around since

the last collision. They're the ones who have been picking up speed, and that's how you get conductivity proportional to the

applied field. So it's hard to get a velocity proportional to force. You always get acceleration proportional to force,

but when you've got random motion, the velocity is proportional to the applied field. By the way, I should tell you, in a real solid,

if you ask what do they collide into, can you imagine? You have a mental picture of a solid where the atoms form a nice array.

The nuclei form a nice periodic array. The electrons in a metal are free to travel the length and width of the solid.

If you're an electron, you're going through, you see a nuclei every whatever, 10 to the -8 centimeters, there's another nucleus,

but that's not what matters. This is more advanced theory, when you try to find the conductivity of materials.

A perfectly periodic lattice of nuclei, electrons have a way to travel through them without ever colliding. It's like, if you cannot see and the furniture is all in a

certain place, you can navigate freely around them. But if somebody moves something and you're not expecting it,

that's when you have a collision. And that motion comes about when you heat the solid. When you heat the solid, the nuclei start vibrating,

so you don't know quite where somebody will be. That gives a small probability for the electron to collide with them.

Therefore the conductivity will quite often depend on the temperature, but it can also depend on the force of interactions between electrons.

But even if electrons don't interact with each other in a serious way, the collision with the nucleus is controlled by lattice vibrations.

But no matter how sophisticated the calculation is, you can go to my office and ask, what are people doing for conductivity?

they're all what you think they mean. τ is more sophisticated, and you have to calculate it in a quantum theory.

But in the end, after all the work, you get a number τ, you put it in the same formula, ne^(2)τ/m to get the conductivity of a

material. So now I want to do a little electric circuits for you. So here's one simple circuit I'm going to do.

I'm going to take a capacitor, charge it up to some amount Q, then I'm going to put my resistor here like this and ask what happens when I close that

These positive guys are dying to get over to the negative side, but they cannot jump the gap here, because it's a vacuum. But if you give them a path, they will go through that and

So when I close the switch, let me write down an equation for what will happen. There's a resistance here.

This is the current I flowing here. The fundamental equation you write down in any circuit is if you start at any point, you take any closed path and

find all the changes in potential, the change has to be 0. Because it's coming from a conservative field,

the integral of the electric field on a loop is 0. That means the total change in potential from anywhere back to the same place is 0, because it's like a height.

So when I start here and I go through the capacitor, I go up in electrical height by an amount Q/C. This conductor is assumed to be a perfect conductor,

so there is no electric field inside here, there's no change in potential until I come to this resistor. A resistor will not carry current unless there's a voltage

applied to it. You've seen there, and this is the higher end of the voltage, this is the lower end of the voltage,

because it's flowing downhill. So you have a drop in voltage by an amount RI, then you come back to the starting point.

All the changes you had better add up to 0. That's the fundamental statement that in any electrical circuit, if you start anywhere and go

through any path in the circuit and come back to a starting point, the net change in voltage has to be 0, because every point has an

But what's the relation between I and Q? Can you find a relation between I and Q? Suppose a current flows for a short time.

Student: Isn't I Q divided by time? Prof: It's not necessarily divided by time, but it's a derivative.

I is dQ /dt, because in a small time dt, when the current I flows, Idt coulombs flow through here,

but they've got to come from there. But the only thing missing is the - sign. Because if I is defined this way and is positive,

a positive I depletes the charge, so I is −dQ/dt. So I have the equation here that looks like--so go back to

-dt/RC. Now if you integrate that from start to finish and start to finish, this will give you log of

^(/RC). That means after you close the switch, if you measure the charge and the capacitor as a function of

time, it starts with some Q_0 and it decays exponentially. How long does it take for it to completely discharge?

The answer is infinite amount of time. Why is the capacitor not able to discharge it completely? Can you think about that?

Why doesn't it just get it over with, right? Just dump all the charge to the other plate? Why is it taking forever?

Student: There's always resistance. Prof: There is always resistance. There has always been resistance, so what's happening

with time, right? That's the voltage driving the current through the resistor. So as it drives current through the resistor and it begins to

become empty, it's able to drive less current through the resistor. So it's trying to work against itself, but it doesn't have

enough Q on it to drive more Q down. That's why. That's the meaning of the equation.

The rate of flow of Q is proportional to Q itself. So as long as there is some Q left, it will be decaying, but it will never come to 0,

because the driving force for the decay is Q itself. And if you say how long should I wait? There's a certain time called 1/RC, which is called the

then you've got e to the minus huge number and that's a negligible number. So whenever you say something's falling exponentially,

it doesn't mean that it may take forever, or It may happen very quickly. It depends what's up in the exponent.

All exponential functions will look like e to the minus time over some other number with dimension of time. That's the unit in which you measure time.

If little t is many times big t_0, then it's e to the minus big number, which is negligible. So you've got to wait many time constants before a capacitor

will discharge. So capacitors are pretty dangerous. In fact, your computer, if you open it,

there can be capacitors inside which are charged, even though it's not plugged into the mains. So don't think it's safe to open an electrical device,

just because it's not plugged into the mains. Because people tell you, "Hey, pull the plug, then you can do what you want."

Not quite, because if you do that, that's a big fat capacitor, that R stands for you. That current is going to go right through you.

That's why they always tell you, "Do not take this computer to your bathtub" for example. So these warnings, even though they sound

ridiculous, part of it is true. Capacitors are very dangerous. What you want to do is discharge all your capacitors

first. Even in flash bulbs, that's what happens. You charge up a lot of charge in a capacitor,

and the resistance there is the bulb itself, the little coil in the bulb. When we close the circuit, the capacitor dumps all its

charge and then in the brief moment, the coil heats up, namely R heats up and glows and you have a flash.

But there you want time constant to be very small, because how long are you going to tell people to keep smiling? So you've got to get on with it, so you put in a very quick,

very rapid time constant, so R is going to be very small. Sometimes you want the decay to be very, very slow.

People are even thinking of getting rid of batteries and just buying capacitors. With a capacitor, you can use it to drive

something, but slowly the voltage will go down. So if your device can operate over a range of voltage, the voltage is just Q(t)/C.

That's the voltage at a given time. If it can operate up to that voltage, between that and that voltage, you can run it for that time.

Okay, so this is the fate of the current. Now what is Q_0? At t = 0, what is the charge in the

capacitor? Well, that's the initial charge in the capacitor. What is the current in this problem, I?

That's a current it starts with, but the current also decays exponentially, so with another prefactor. But there's one calculation I wanted to do,

which is the energy calculation. If I had a capacitor that was charged, I had an energy ½CV^(2), or if you want,

You want to ask yourself, what happened to the energy I had in the capacitor? And we all know the answer is that it went through the

resistor and heated it up, and the heat energy or light energy is where you got your rewards. But we've got to make sure that the energy deposited in the

resistor over all time is equal to the energy you had in the capacitor. That's the last one thing I wanted you to check.

So when current goes through a resistor--here's a current going through a resistor--what is the rate at which energy is being consumed?

You're flowing downhill electrically through voltage V. Every coulomb that falls down loses an energy Q times

V as it falls. And that's the energy that's given to the wire by colliding with the stuff in it and heating it up.

Therefore in 1 second, the number of coulombs falling down is VI and that's the power. So power in the resistor is VI.

That's the rate of energy consumption. So in this problem, V is Q/C and I, I got somewhere here--I'm too close to the board to see where

I'm sorry, there's an easier way to do this. Instead of writing VI, let me write it as I^(2)R, because 1V is IR.

So I want to integrate from 0 to infinity the quantity I^(2)R. Now I'm not going to waste your time, guys.

integral, and believe me, you will just get Q_0 ^(2)/2C. I don't want to spend time doing that.

The capacitor discharges through the resistor and the energy you pumped into it comes out in the form of heat, or light if it's glowing.

And we have seen the balance of energy. But now the trouble with this circuit is that it doesn't last very long.

You've done it once, you're finished. The capacitor discharges. If you want an experiment where the current can keep on running,

then you need what's called a cell or a battery. I've got to explain to you a little bit about the cell. It's something I did not fully understand the first time

around, so I want to share with you whatever understanding I have, how the cell works. People generally tell you a cell provides a certain voltage

difference between the end points, maybe 1.2 volts between this and the terminal. That's certainly true, but in light of what we have

learned, here is what is the correct way to think about it. The analogy is with the ski resort. So here is the ski resort.

All these guys are coming down. Let's follow one person coming down the ski. Gravity's acting down here, then you sort of loop around

and you come here for free. Then there is a lift that takes you to the top. So let's call it the force of the lift.

The force of the lift has nothing to do with gravity, driven by some other engines and so on. And we define force of the lift on the closed loop to be

something called curly E. This is the mechanical analog of what's called electromotive force.

Now this line integral of this force is not 0 on a closed loop, because on the way up, it is doing some work, but it doesn't do anything the rest of the circuit.

It's always acting up, moving a distance h. Maybe that force times h is the electromotor force. So you go to the top, you come down,

and the electromotive force comes and pushes you back to the top, and again, gravity brings you down. So in a battery, what you have is the following

- that's where you have to follow this very closely. Here is an electrical cell. In an electrical cell, there are a lot of positive

charges and there are a lot of negative charges, and the field in fact looks like this. So when a current flows, it goes like that,

Inside the cell, if the current flows this way, the current has to go like this. The electric field is actually pointing down between the

plates. That's not what makes it move, because there's an extra force. This is your electric field.

There's an extra force called E', which is of chemical origin, which pushes your charges against their will from lower potential to higher potential.

That is like the ski lift. Electric field everywhere is like gravity. Its line integral that way and line integral that way are all

which is not equal to 0 and in fact is called the emf. You can see it's not 0, because it's non-zero here. Everywhere else it is 0.

And in the region where it's non-zero, there's no cancellation. The displacement and the force are all in the same direction.

So it's a non-conservative force sitting inside a battery. It's a chemical force. The usual electric field that we all like,

if you ask how big is this E' and how big is this E, what happens inside the battery is, once you start piling up

charges there, this electric field opposed to the charge is coming, the chemical force will exactly balance the electrical force inside.