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Electric charge is the
physical property A physical property is any property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property may have th ...
of
matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimately composed of atoms, which are made up of interacting subatomic particl ...
that causes it to experience a
force In physics, a force is an influence that can change the motion (physics), motion of an Physical object, object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity (e.g. moving from a Newton's first law, state of rest), i.e., to acce ...

force
when placed in an
electromagnetic field An electromagnetic field (also EM field or EMF) is a classical (i.e. non-quantum) field Field may refer to: Expanses of open ground * Field (agriculture), an area of land used for agricultural purposes * Airfield, an aerodrome that lacks the in ...
. Electric charge can be ''positive'' or ''negative'' (commonly carried by
proton A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge of +1''e'' elementary charge and a mass slightly less than that of a neutron. Protons and neutrons, each with masses of approximately one atomic mass unit, are collecti ...

proton
s and
electron The electron is a subatomic particle (denoted by the symbol or ) whose electric charge is negative one elementary charge. Electrons belong to the first generation (particle physics), generation of the lepton particle family, and are general ...

electron
s respectively). Like charges repel each other and unlike charges attract each other. An object with an absence of net charge is referred to as neutral. Early knowledge of how charged substances interact is now called
classical electrodynamics Classical electromagnetism or classical electrodynamics is a branch of theoretical physics that studies the interactions between electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when place ...
, and is still accurate for problems that do not require consideration of
quantum effects Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory A theory is a reason, rational type of abstraction, abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative and rational thinking is often associated with s ...
. Electric charge is a conserved property; the net charge of an
isolated system In physical science, an isolated system is either of the following: # a physical system In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , i ...
, the amount of positive charge minus the amount of negative charge, cannot change. Electric charge is carried by
subatomic particle In physical sciences, subatomic particles are smaller than atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All ...
s. In ordinary matter, negative charge is carried by electrons, and positive charge is carried by the protons in the
nuclei ''Nucleus'' (plural nuclei) is a Latin word for the seed inside a fruit. It most often refers to: *Atomic nucleus, the very dense central region of an atom *Cell nucleus, a central organelle of a eukaryotic cell, containing most of the cell's DNA ...
of
atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimately composed of ato ...

atom
s. If there are more electrons than protons in a piece of matter, it will have a negative charge, if there are fewer it will have a positive charge, and if there are equal numbers it will be neutral. Charge is '' quantized''; it comes in integer multiples of individual small units called the
elementary charge The elementary charge, usually denoted by or sometimes e is the electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field. Electric charge can be ''positiv ...
, ''e'', about , which is the smallest charge which can exist freely (particles called
quark A quark () is a type of elementary particle In particle physics, an elementary particle or fundamental particle is a subatomic particle that is not composed of other particles. Particles currently thought to be elementary include the fundam ...

quark
s have smaller charges, multiples of ''e'', but they are only found in combination, and always combine to form particles with integer charge). The proton has a charge of +''e'', and the electron has a charge of −''e''. Electric charges produce
electric field An electric field (sometimes E-field) is the physical field that surrounds electrically-charged particle In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' ' ...

electric field
s. A moving charge also produces a
magnetic field A magnetic field is a vector field In vector calculus and physics, a vector field is an assignment of a vector to each point in a subset of space. For instance, a vector field in the plane can be visualised as a collection of arrows with ...

magnetic field
. The interaction of electric charges with an electromagnetic field (combination of electric and magnetic fields) is the source of the
electromagnetic (or Lorentz) force
electromagnetic (or Lorentz) force
, which is one of the four
fundamental forces In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Sp ...
in
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical scie ...

physics
. The study of
photon The photon ( el, φῶς, phōs, light) is a type of elementary particle In , an elementary particle or fundamental particle is a that is not composed of other particles. Particles currently thought to be elementary include the fundamental s ...
-mediated interactions among charged particles is called
quantum electrodynamics In particle physics, quantum electrodynamics (QED) is the relativity theory, relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics. In essence, it describes how light and matter interact and is the first theory where full agreement between quantum m ...
. The
SI derived unit SI derived units are units of measurement derived from the seven SI base unit, base units specified by the International System of Units (SI). They are either dimensionless quantity, dimensionless or can be expressed as a product of one or more o ...
of electric charge is the
coulomb The coulomb (symbol: C) is the International System of Units International is an adjective (also used as a noun) meaning "between nations". International may also refer to: Music Albums * International (Kevin Michael album), ''International'' ( ...

coulomb
(C) named after French physicist
Charles-Augustin de Coulomb Charles-Augustin de Coulomb (; ; 14 June 1736 – 23 August 1806) was a French officer, engineer, and physicist. He is best known as the eponymous discoverer of what is now called Coulomb's law, the description of the electrostatics, electrostatic ...
. In
electrical engineering Electrical engineering is an engineering discipline concerned with the study, design, and application of equipment, devices, and systems which use electricity, electronics The field of electronics is a branch of physics and electrical enginee ...

electrical engineering
it is also common to use the ampere-hour (Ah). In
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical scie ...

physics
and
chemistry Chemistry is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. T ...

chemistry
it is common to use the elementary charge (''e'') as a unit. Chemistry also uses the
Faraday constant In physical chemistry, the Faraday constant, denoted by the symbol and sometimes stylized as ℱ, is the electric charge of one mole (unit), mole of electrons. It can be thought of as the conversion factor between the mole (used in chemistry) and ...
as the charge on a
mole Mole (or Molé) may refer to: Animals * Mole (animal) or "true mole", mammals in the family Talpidae, found in Eurasia and North America * Golden moles, southern African mammals in the family Chrysochloridae, similar to but unrelated to Talpidae ...
of electrons. The lowercase symbol ''q'' often denotes charge.


Overview

Charge is the fundamental property of matter that exhibit
electrostatic Electrostatics is a branch of physics that studies electric charges at Rest (physics), rest (static electricity). Since classical antiquity, classical times, it has been known that some materials, such as amber, attract lightweight particles af ...
attraction or repulsion in the presence of other matter with charge. Electric charge is a characteristic property of many
subatomic particles In physics, physical sciences, subatomic particles are smaller than atoms. They can be composite particles, such as the neutron and proton; or elementary particles, which according to the standard model are not made of other particles. Particle p ...
. The charges of free-standing particles are integer multiples of the elementary charge ''e''; we say that electric charge is '' quantized''.
Michael Faraday Michael Faraday (; 22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge ...

Michael Faraday
, in his
electrolysis In chemistry Chemistry is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in ...

electrolysis
experiments, was the first to note the discrete nature of electric charge.
Robert Millikan Robert Andrews Millikan (March 22, 1868 – December 19, 1953) was an American experimental physicist honored with the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1923 for the measurement of the Elementary charge, elementary electric charge and for his work on ...
's
oil drop experiment The oil drop experiment was performed by Robert A. Millikan and Harvey Fletcher in 1909 to measure the elementary electric charge (the charge of the electron The electron is a subatomic particle, symbol or , whose electric charge Elect ...
demonstrated this fact directly, and measured the elementary charge. It has been discovered that one type of particle,
quark A quark () is a type of elementary particle In particle physics, an elementary particle or fundamental particle is a subatomic particle that is not composed of other particles. Particles currently thought to be elementary include the fundam ...

quark
s, have fractional charges of either − or +, but it is believed they always occur in multiples of integral charge; free-standing quarks have never been observed. By convention, the charge of an
electron The electron is a subatomic particle (denoted by the symbol or ) whose electric charge is negative one elementary charge. Electrons belong to the first generation (particle physics), generation of the lepton particle family, and are general ...

electron
is negative, ''−e'', while that of a
proton A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge of +1''e'' elementary charge and a mass slightly less than that of a neutron. Protons and neutrons, each with masses of approximately one atomic mass unit, are collecti ...

proton
is positive, ''+e''. Charged particles whose charges have the same sign repel one another, and particles whose charges have different signs attract.
Coulomb's law Coulomb's law, or Coulomb's inverse-square law, is an experimental physical law, law of physics that quantifies the amount of force between two stationary, electric charge, electrically charged particles. The electric force between charged bodi ...
quantifies the electrostatic
force In physics, a force is an influence that can change the motion (physics), motion of an Physical object, object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity (e.g. moving from a Newton's first law, state of rest), i.e., to acce ...

force
between two particles by asserting that the force is proportional to the product of their charges, and
inversely proportional to the square
inversely proportional to the square
of the distance between them. The charge of an
antiparticle s (left) and antiparticles (right). From top to bottom; electron The electron is a subatomic particle In physical sciences, subatomic particles are smaller than atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classica ...
equals that of the corresponding particle, but with opposite sign. The electric charge of a
macroscopic The macroscopic scale is the length scale on which objects or phenomena are large enough to be visible with the naked eye, without magnifying optical instruments. It is the opposite of microscopic The microscopic scale (from , ''mikrós'', "sm ...
object is the sum of the electric charges of the particles that make it up. This charge is often small, because matter is made of
atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimately composed of ato ...

atom
s, and atoms typically have equal numbers of
proton A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge of +1''e'' elementary charge and a mass slightly less than that of a neutron. Protons and neutrons, each with masses of approximately one atomic mass unit, are collecti ...

proton
s and
electron The electron is a subatomic particle (denoted by the symbol or ) whose electric charge is negative one elementary charge. Electrons belong to the first generation (particle physics), generation of the lepton particle family, and are general ...

electron
s, in which case their charges cancel out, yielding a net charge of zero, thus making the atom neutral. An ''
ion An ion () is an atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ...
'' is an atom (or group of atoms) that has lost one or more electrons, giving it a net positive charge (cation), or that has gained one or more electrons, giving it a net negative charge (anion). ''Monatomic ions'' are formed from single atoms, while ''polyatomic ions'' are formed from two or more atoms that have been bonded together, in each case yielding an ion with a positive or negative net charge. During the formation of macroscopic objects, constituent atoms and ions usually combine to form structures composed of neutral ''ionic compounds'' electrically bound to neutral atoms. Thus macroscopic objects tend toward being neutral overall, but macroscopic objects are rarely perfectly net neutral. Sometimes macroscopic objects contain ions distributed throughout the material, rigidly bound in place, giving an overall net positive or negative charge to the object. Also, macroscopic objects made of conductive elements can more or less easily (depending on the element) take on or give off electrons, and then maintain a net negative or positive charge indefinitely. When the net electric charge of an object is non-zero and motionless, the phenomenon is known as
static electricity Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field. Electric charge can be ''positive'' or ''negative'' (commonl ...

static electricity
. This can easily be produced by rubbing two dissimilar materials together, such as rubbing
amber Amber is fossil A fossil (from Classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was ...

amber
with
fur Fur is a thick growth of hair Hair is a protein filament In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular bi ...

fur
or
glass Glass is a non- crystalline, often transparency and translucency, transparent amorphous solid, that has widespread practical, technological, and decorative use in, for example, window panes, tableware, and optics. Glass is most often formed by ...

glass
with
silk Silk is a natural Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all o ...

silk
. In this way, non-conductive materials can be charged to a significant degree, either positively or negatively. Charge taken from one material is moved to the other material, leaving an opposite charge of the same magnitude behind. The law of ''
conservation of charge In physics, charge conservation is the principle that the total electric charge in an isolated system never changes. The net quantity of electric charge, the amount of positive charge minus the amount of negative charge in the universe, is always ...
'' always applies, giving the object from which a negative charge is taken a positive charge of the same magnitude, and vice versa. Even when an object's net charge is zero, the charge can be distributed non-uniformly in the object (e.g., due to an external
electromagnetic field An electromagnetic field (also EM field or EMF) is a classical (i.e. non-quantum) field Field may refer to: Expanses of open ground * Field (agriculture), an area of land used for agricultural purposes * Airfield, an aerodrome that lacks the in ...
, or bound polar molecules). In such cases, the object is said to be polarized. The charge due to polarization is known as bound charge, while the charge on an object produced by electrons gained or lost from outside the object is called ''free charge''. The motion of electrons in conductive
metal A metal (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...

metal
s in a specific direction is known as
electric current An electric current is a stream of charged particle In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, ...
.


Units

The SI derived unit of
quantity Quantity is a property that can exist as a multitude or magnitude, which illustrate discontinuity and continuity. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more", "less", or "equal", or by assigning a numerical value in terms of a unit of measu ...
of electric charge is the
coulomb The coulomb (symbol: C) is the International System of Units International is an adjective (also used as a noun) meaning "between nations". International may also refer to: Music Albums * International (Kevin Michael album), ''International'' ( ...

coulomb
(symbol: C). The coulomb is defined as the quantity of charge that passes through the
cross section Cross section may refer to: * Cross section (geometry), the intersection of a 3-dimensional body with a plane * Cross section (electronics), a common sample preparation technique in electronics * Cross section (geology), the intersection of a 3-dim ...
of an
electrical conductor In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force ...
carrying one
ampere The ampere (, ; symbol: A), often shortened to "amp",SI supports only the use of symbols and deprecates the use of abbreviations for units. is the base unit of electric current An electric current is a stream of charged particle In physics ...

ampere
for one
second The second (symbol: s, also abbreviated: sec) is the base unit of time Time is the continued sequence of existence and event (philosophy), events that occurs in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past, th ...
. This unit was proposed in 1946 and ratified in 1948. In modern practice, the phrase "amount of charge" is used instead of "quantity of charge"., p. 150 The lowercase symbol ''q'' is often used to denote a quantity of electricity or charge. The quantity of electric charge can be directly measured with an
electrometer An electrometer is an electrical instrument for measuring electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field. There are two types of electric charge: ...

electrometer
, or indirectly measured with a . The amount of charge in 1 electron (
elementary charge The elementary charge, usually denoted by or sometimes e is the electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field. Electric charge can be ''positiv ...
) is defined as a fundamental constant in the SI system of units, (effective from 20 May 2019)., p. 127 The value for elementary charge, when expressed in the SI unit for electric charge (coulomb), is ''exactly'' . After finding the quantized character of charge, in 1891 George Stoney proposed the unit 'electron' for this fundamental unit of electrical charge. This was before the discovery of the particle by J. J. Thomson in 1897. The unit is today referred to as , , or simply as . A measure of charge should be a multiple of the elementary charge ''e'', even if at large scales charge seems to behave as a real quantity. In some contexts it is meaningful to speak of fractions of a charge; for example in the charging of a
capacitor A capacitor is a device that stores electric charge in an electric field. It is a passivity (engineering), passive electronic component with two terminal (electronics), terminals. The effect of a capacitor is known as capacitance. While som ...

capacitor
, or in the
fractional quantum Hall effect The fractional quantum Hall effect (FQHE) is a physical phenomenon in which the Hall conductance of 2D electrons shows precisely quantised plateaus at fractional values of e^2/h. It is a property of a collective state in which electrons bind magnet ...
. The unit
faraday Michael Faraday (; 22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, d ...
is sometimes used in electrochemistry. One faraday of charge is the magnitude of the charge of one mole of electrons, i.e. 96485.33289(59) C. In systems of units other than SI such as , electric charge is expressed as combination of only three fundamental quantities (length, mass, and time), and not four, as in SI, where electric charge is a combination of length, mass, time, and electric current.


History

From ancient times, people were familiar with four types of phenomena that today would all be explained using the concept of electric charge: (a)
lightning Lightning is a naturally occurring electrostatic discharge Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is the sudden flow of electricity Electricity is the set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and motion Image:Leaving Yongsan ...

lightning
, (b) the
torpedo fish The electric rays are a group of rays, flattened cartilaginous fish Chondrichthyes (; from Greek χονδρ- 'cartilage', ἰχθύς 'fish') is a class that contains the cartilaginous fishes that have skeletons primarily composed of ca ...
(or electric ray), (c)
St Elmo's Fire St. Elmo's fire is a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma Plasma or plasm may refer to: Science * Plasma (physics), one of the four fundamental states of matter * Plasma (mineral) or heliotrope, a mineral aggregate * Quark–gluon plasma ...
, and (d) that
amber Amber is fossil A fossil (from Classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was ...

amber
rubbed with
fur Fur is a thick growth of hair Hair is a protein filament In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular bi ...

fur
would attract small, light objects. The first account of the is often attributed to the ancient Greek mathematician
Thales of Miletus Thales of Miletus ( ; el, Θαλῆς Thales of Miletus ( ; el, Θαλῆς (ὁ Μιλήσιος), ''Thalēs''; ) was a Greek mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (fr ...

Thales of Miletus
, who lived from c. 624 – c. 546 BC, but there are doubts about whether Thales left any writings; his account about amber is known from an account from early 200s. This account can be taken as evidence that the phenomenon was known since at least c. 600 BC, but Thales explained this phenomenon as evidence for inanimate objects having a soul.Lives of the Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius, Book 1, §24
/ref> In other words, there was no indication of any conception of electric charge. More generally, the ancient Greeks did not understand the connections among these four kinds of phenomena. The Greeks observed that the charged amber buttons could attract light objects such as
hair Hair is a protein filament In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Ph ...

hair
. They also found that if they rubbed the amber for long enough, they could even get an
electric spark An electric spark is an abrupt electrical discharge that occurs when a sufficiently high electric field creates an Ionization, ionized, Electric current, electrically conductive channel through a normally-insulating medium, often air or other gas ...
to jump, but there is also a claim that no mention of electric sparks appeared until late 17th century. This property derives from the
triboelectric effect The triboelectric effect (also known as triboelectric charging) is a type of contact electrification on which certain materials become electric charge, electrically charged after they are separated from a different material with which they were in ...
. In late 1100s, the substance jet, a compacted form of coal, was noted to have an amber effect, and in the middle of the 1500s,
Girolamo Fracastoro Girolamo Fracastoro ( la, Hieronymus Fracastorius; c. 1476/86 August 1553) was an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Rep ...

Girolamo Fracastoro
, discovered that
diamond Diamond is a Allotropes of carbon, solid form of the element carbon with its atoms arranged in a crystal structure called diamond cubic. At Standard conditions for temperature and pressure, room temperature and pressure, another solid form of ...

diamond
also showed this effect. Some efforts were made by Fracastoro and others, especially
Gerolamo Cardano Gerolamo (also Girolamo or Geronimo) Cardano (; french: link=no, Jérôme Cardan; la, Hieronymus Cardanus; 24 September 1501 (O. S.)– 21 September 1576 (O. S.)) was an Italian polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, ', "having learn ...

Gerolamo Cardano
to develop explanations for this phenomenon. In contrast to
astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses mathematics, phys ...
,
mechanics Mechanics (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximat ...

mechanics
, and
optics Optics is the branch of physics that studies the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of optical instruments, instruments that use or Photodetector, detect it. Optics usually describes t ...

optics
, which had been studied quantitatively since antiquity, the start of ongoing qualitative and quantitative research into electrical phenomena can be marked with the publication of ''
De Magnete Title page of 1628 edition ''De Magnete, Magneticisque Corporibus, et de Magno Magnete Tellure'' (''On the Magnet and Magnetic Bodies, and on That Great Magnet the Earth'') is a scientific work published in 1600 by the English physician and scien ...
'' by the English scientist William Gilbert in 1600. In this book, there was a small section where Gilbert returned to the amber effect (as he called it) in addressing many of the earlier theories, and coined the
New Latin New Latin (also called Neo-Latin or modern Latin) is the revival of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, know ...
word ''electrica'' (from (ēlektron), the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
word for ''amber''). The Latin word was translated into English as . Gilbert is also credited with the term ''electrical'', while the term ''electricity'' came later, first attributed to Sir
Thomas Browne Sir Thomas Browne (; 19 October 1605 – 19 October 1682) was an English polymath and author of varied works which reveal his wide learning in diverse fields including science and medicine, religion and the esoteric. His writings display a ...
in his
Pseudodoxia Epidemica ''Pseudodoxia Epidemica or Enquiries into very many received tenents and commonly presumed truths'', also known simply as ''Pseudodoxia Epidemica'' or ''Vulgar Errors'', is a work by Thomas Browne Sir Thomas Browne (; 19 October 1605 &ndash ...
from 1646. (For more linguistic details see Etymology of electricity.) Gilbert hypothesized that this amber effect could be explained by an effluvium (a small stream of particles that flows from the electric object, without diminishing its bulk or weight) that acts on other objects. This idea of a material electrical effluvium was influential in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a precursor to ideas developed in the 18th century about "electric fluid" (Dufay, Nollet, Franklin) and "electric charge". Around 1663
Otto von Guericke Otto von Guericke ( , , ; spelled Gericke until 1666; November 20, 1602 – May 11, 1686 Julian_calendar">nowiki/>Julian_calendar.html" ;"title="Julian_calendar.html" ;"title="nowiki/>Julian calendar">nowiki/>Julian calendar">Julian_calendar.h ...

Otto von Guericke
invented what was probably the first
electrostatic generator 12" Quadruple Sector-less Wimshurst Machine (Bonetti Machine) An electrostatic generator, or electrostatic machine, is an electric generator, electromechanical generator that produces ''static electricity'', or electricity at high voltage and low ...
, but he did not recognize it primarily as an electrical device and only conducted minimal electrical experiments with it. Other European pioneers were
Robert Boyle Robert Boyle (; 25 January 1627 – 31 December 1691) was an Anglo-Irish Anglo-Irish () is a term which was more commonly used in the 19th and early 20th centuries to identify an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a group ...

Robert Boyle
, who in 1675 published the first book in English that was devoted solely to electrical phenomena. His work was largely a repetition of Gilbert's studies, but he also identified several more "electrics", and noted mutual attraction between two bodies. In 1729 Stephen Gray was experimenting with
static electricity Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field. Electric charge can be ''positive'' or ''negative'' (commonl ...

static electricity
, which he generated using a glass tube. He noticed that a cork, used to protect the tube from dust and moisture, also became electrified (charged). Further experiments (e.g., extending the cork by putting thin sticks into it) showed—for the first time—that electrical effluvia (as Gray called it) could be transmitted (conducted) over a distance. Gray managed to transmit charge with twine (765 feet) and wire (865 feet). Through these experiments, Gray discovered the importance of different materials, which facilitated or hindered the conduction of electrical effluvia.
John Theophilus Desaguliers John Theophilus Desaguliers FRS (12 March 1683 – 29 February 1744) was a British natural philosopher, clergyman, engineer and freemason who was elected to the Royal Society The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Impr ...

John Theophilus Desaguliers
, who repeated many of Gray's experiments, is credited with coining the terms
conductors Conductor or conduction may refer to: Music * Conductor (music), a person who leads a musical ensemble like, for example, an orchestra. * Conductor (album), ''Conductor'' (album), an album by indie rock band The Comas * Conduction, a type of ...
and
insulators Insulator may refer to: * Insulator (electricity) An electrical insulator is a material in which the electron does not flow freely or the atom of the insulator have tightly bound electrons whose internal electric charge Electric charge is th ...
to refer to the effects of different materials in these experiments. Gray also discovered electrical induction (i.e., where charge could be transmitted from one object to another without any direct physical contact). For example, he showed that by bringing a charged glass tube close to, but not touching, a lump of lead that was sustained by a thread, it was possible to make the lead become electrified (e.g., to attract and repel brass filings). He attempted to explain this phenomenon with the idea of electrical effluvia. Gray's discoveries introduced an important shift in the historical development of knowledge about electric charge. The fact that electrical effluvia could be transferred from one object to another, opened the theoretical possibility that this property was not inseparably connected to the bodies that were electrified by rubbing. In 1733
Charles François de Cisternay du Fay Charles François de Cisternay du Fay (14 September 1698 – 16 July 1739) was a French chemist A chemist (from Greek ''chēm(ía)'' alchemy; replacing ''chymist'' from Medieval Latin ''alchemist'') is a scientist A scientist is a person wh ...

Charles François de Cisternay du Fay
, inspired by Gray's work, made a series of experiments (reported in ''Mémoires de l' Académie Royale des Sciences''), showing that more or less all substances could be 'electrified' by rubbing, except for metals and fluids and proposed that electricity comes in two varieties that cancel each other, which he expressed in terms of a two-fluid theory. When
glass Glass is a non- crystalline, often transparency and translucency, transparent amorphous solid, that has widespread practical, technological, and decorative use in, for example, window panes, tableware, and optics. Glass is most often formed by ...

glass
was rubbed with
silk Silk is a natural Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all o ...

silk
, du Fay said that the glass was charged with '' electricity'', and, when amber was rubbed with fur, the amber was charged with ''
resin In polymer chemistry Polymer chemistry is a sub-discipline of chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, stru ...

resin
ous electricity''. In contemporary understanding, positive charge is now defined as the charge of a glass rod after being rubbed with a silk cloth, but it is arbitrary which type of charge is called positive and which is called negative. Another important two-fluid theory from this time was proposed by
Jean-Antoine Nollet Jean-Antoine Nollet (19 November 170025 April 1770) was a French clergyman and physicist who did a number of experiments with electricity Electricity is the set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and motion Image:Leaving ...

Jean-Antoine Nollet
(1745). Up until about 1745, the main explanation for electrical attraction and repulsion was the idea that electrified bodies gave off an effluvium.
Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin ( April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States The Founding Fathers of the United States, or simply the Founding Fathers or Founders, were a group of American revolutionary Patriots (also ...

Benjamin Franklin
started electrical experiments in late 1746, and by 1750 had developed a one-
fluid theory of electricity Fluid theories of electricity are outdated theories that postulated one or more electrical Electricity is the set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and motion Image:Leaving Yongsan Station.jpg, 300px, Motion involves a cha ...
, based on an experiment that showed that a rubbed glass received the same, but opposite, charge strength as the cloth used to rub the glass. Franklin imagined electricity as being a type of invisible fluid present in all matter; for example, he believed that it was the
glass Glass is a non- crystalline, often transparency and translucency, transparent amorphous solid, that has widespread practical, technological, and decorative use in, for example, window panes, tableware, and optics. Glass is most often formed by ...

glass
in a
Leyden jar A Leyden jar (or Leiden jar, or archaically, sometimes Kleistian jar) is an electrical component An electronic component is any basic discrete device or physical entity in an electronic system Electronic may refer to: *Electronics, the scien ...

Leyden jar
that held the accumulated charge. He posited that rubbing insulating surfaces together caused this fluid to change location, and that a flow of this fluid constitutes an electric current. He also posited that when matter contained an excess of the fluid it was charged and when it had a deficit it was charged. He identified the term with vitreous electricity and with resinous electricity after performing an experiment with a glass tube he had received from his overseas colleague Peter Collinson. The experiment had participant A charge the glass tube and participant B receive a shock to the knuckle from the charged tube. Franklin identified participant B to be positively charged after having been shocked by the tube. There is some ambiguity about whether
William WatsonWilliam, Willie, Bill or Billy Watson may refer to: Entertainment * William Watson (songwriter) (1794–1840), English concert hall singer and songwriter * William Watson (poet) (1858–1935), English poet * Billy Watson (actor) (born 1923), Americ ...
independently arrived at the same one-fluid explanation around the same time (1747). Watson, after seeing Franklin's letter to Collinson, claims that he had presented the same explanation as Franklin in spring 1747. Franklin had studied some of Watson's works prior to making his own experiments and analysis, which was probably significant for Franklin's own theorizing. One physicist suggests that Watson first proposed a one-fluid theory, which Franklin then elaborated further and more influentially. A historian of science argues that Watson missed a subtle difference between his ideas and Franklin's, so that Watson misinterpreted his ideas as being similar to Franklin's. In any case, there was no animosity between Watson and Franklin, and the Franklin model of electrical action, formulated in early 1747, eventually became widely accepted at that time. After Franklin's work, effluvia-based explanations were rarely put forward. It is now known that the Franklin model was fundamentally correct. There is only one kind of electrical charge, and only one variable is required to keep track of the amount of charge. Until 1800 it was only possible to study conduction of electric charge by using an electrostatic discharge. In 1800
Alessandro Volta Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (, ; 18 February 1745 – 5 March 1827) was an Italian physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empiric ...

Alessandro Volta
was the first to show that charge could be maintained in continuous motion through a closed path. In 1833,
Michael Faraday Michael Faraday (; 22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge ...

Michael Faraday
sought to remove any doubt that electricity is identical, regardless of the source by which it is produced. He discussed a variety of known forms, which he characterized as common electricity (e.g.,
static electricity Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field. Electric charge can be ''positive'' or ''negative'' (commonl ...

static electricity
,
piezoelectricity Piezoelectricity (, ) is the electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field. Electric charge can be ''positive'' or ''negative'' (commonly carrie ...

piezoelectricity
,
magnetic induction Electromagnetic or magnetic induction is the production of an electromotive force In electromagnetism and electronics, electromotive force (emf, denoted \mathcal and measured in volts) is the electrical action produced by a non-electrical sour ...
), voltaic electricity (e.g.,
electric current An electric current is a stream of charged particle In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, ...
from a
voltaic pile The voltaic pile was the first electrical battery A battery is a device consisting of one or more electrochemical cell An electrochemical cell is a device capable of either generating electrical energy from chemical reaction A che ...

voltaic pile
), and animal electricity (e.g.,
bioelectricity In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanisms, D ...
). In 1838, Faraday raised a question about whether electricity was a fluid or fluids or a property of matter, like gravity. He investigated whether matter could be charged with one kind of charge independently of the other. He came to the conclusion that electric charge was a relation between two or more bodies, because he could not charge one body without having an opposite charge in another body. In 1838, Faraday also put forth a theoretical explanation of electric force, while expressing neutrality about whether it originates from one, two, or no fluids. He focused on the idea that the normal state of particles is to be nonpolarized, and that when polarized, they seek to return to their natural, nonpolarized state. In developing a field theory approach to electrodynamics (starting in the mid-1850s),
James Clerk Maxwell James Clerk Maxwell (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879) was a Scottish mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as num ...

James Clerk Maxwell
stops considering electric charge as a special substance that accumulates in objects, and starts to understand electric charge as a consequence of the transformation of energy in the field. This pre-quantum understanding considered magnitude of electric charge to be a continuous quantity, even at the microscopic level.


The role of charge in static electricity

Static electricity Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field. Electric charge can be ''positive'' or ''negative'' (commonl ...

Static electricity
refers to the electric charge of an object and the related
electrostatic discharge Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is the sudden flow of electricity Electricity is the set of physical Physical may refer to: *Physical examination, a regular overall check-up with a doctor *Physical (album), ''Physical'' (album), a 1981 album b ...
when two objects are brought together that are not at equilibrium. An electrostatic discharge creates a change in the charge of each of the two objects.


Electrification by friction

When a piece of glass and a piece of resin—neither of which exhibit any electrical properties—are rubbed together and left with the rubbed surfaces in contact, they still exhibit no electrical properties. When separated, they attract each other. A second piece of glass rubbed with a second piece of resin, then separated and suspended near the former pieces of glass and resin causes these phenomena: * The two pieces of glass repel each other. * Each piece of glass attracts each piece of resin. * The two pieces of resin repel each other. This attraction and repulsion is an ''electrical phenomenon'', and the bodies that exhibit them are said to be ''electrified'', or ''electrically charged''. Bodies may be electrified in many other ways, as well as by friction. The electrical properties of the two pieces of glass are similar to each other but opposite to those of the two pieces of resin: The glass attracts what the resin repels and repels what the resin attracts. If a body electrified in any manner whatsoever behaves as the glass does, that is, if it repels the glass and attracts the resin, the body is said to be ''vitreously'' electrified, and if it attracts the glass and repels the resin it is said to be ''resinously'' electrified. All electrified bodies are either vitreously or resinously electrified. An established convention in the scientific community defines vitreous electrification as positive, and resinous electrification as negative. The exactly opposite properties of the two kinds of electrification justify our indicating them by opposite signs, but the application of the positive sign to one rather than to the other kind must be considered as a matter of arbitrary convention—just as it is a matter of convention in
mathematical diagram, ms. from Lüneburg, A.D. 1200 Mathematical diagrams, such as chart A chart is a graphical representation for data visualization, in which "the data Data are units of information Information can be thought of as the resolution of u ...
to reckon positive distances towards the right hand. No force, either of attraction or of repulsion, can be observed between an electrified body and a body not electrified.


The role of charge in electric current

Electric current An electric current is a stream of charged particle In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, ...
is the flow of electric charge through an object, which produces no net loss or gain of electric charge. The most common
charge carriers In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Sp ...
are the positively charged
proton A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge of +1''e'' elementary charge and a mass slightly less than that of a neutron. Protons and neutrons, each with masses of approximately one atomic mass unit, are collecti ...

proton
and the negatively charged
electron The electron is a subatomic particle (denoted by the symbol or ) whose electric charge is negative one elementary charge. Electrons belong to the first generation (particle physics), generation of the lepton particle family, and are general ...

electron
. The movement of any of these charged particles constitutes an electric current. In many situations, it suffices to speak of the ''
conventional current An electric current is a stream of charged particles, such as electrons or ions, moving through an electrical conductor or space. It is measured as the net rate of flow of electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter t ...
'' without regard to whether it is carried by positive charges moving in the direction of the conventional current or by negative charges moving in the opposite direction. This macroscopic viewpoint is an approximation that simplifies electromagnetic concepts and calculations. At the opposite extreme, if one looks at the microscopic situation, one sees there are many ways of carrying an
electric current An electric current is a stream of charged particle In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, ...
, including: a flow of electrons; a flow of electron
holes A hole is an opening in or through a particular medium, usually a solid body. Holes occur through natural and artificial processes, and may be useful for various purposes, or may represent a problem needing to be addressed in many fields of engin ...
that act like positive particles; and both negative and positive particles (
ion An ion () is an atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ...
s or other charged particles) flowing in opposite directions in an
electrolytic An electrolyte is a substance that produces an conductivity (electrolytic), electrically conducting solution when dissolved in a polar solvent, such as water. The dissolved electrolyte separates into cations and anions, which disperse uniformly thr ...

electrolytic
solution Solution may refer to: * Solution (chemistry) Image:SaltInWaterSolutionLiquid.jpg, upMaking a saline water solution by dissolving Salt, table salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) in water. The salt is the solute and the water the solvent. In chemistry ...
or a
plasma Plasma or plasm may refer to: Science * Plasma (physics), one of the four fundamental states of matter * Plasma (mineral) or heliotrope, a mineral aggregate * Quark–gluon plasma, a state of matter in quantum chromodynamics Biology * Blood plasma ...
. Beware that, in the common and important case of metallic wires, the direction of the conventional current is opposite to the
drift velocityIn physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spac ...
of the actual charge carriers; i.e., the electrons. This is a source of confusion for beginners.


Conservation of electric charge

The total electric charge of an
isolated system In physical science, an isolated system is either of the following: # a physical system In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , i ...
remains constant regardless of changes within the system itself. This law is inherent to all processes known to physics and can be derived in a local form from
gauge invariance In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Sp ...
of the
wave function A wave function in quantum physics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory A theory is a rational Rationality is the quality or state of being rational – that is, being based on or agreeable to reason Reason is the capacity ...

wave function
. The conservation of charge results in the charge-current continuity equation. More generally, the rate of change in
charge density In electromagnetism Electromagnetism is a branch of physics involving the study of the electromagnetic force, a type of physical interaction that occurs between electric charge, electrically charged particles. The electromagnetic force is c ...

charge density
''ρ'' within a volume of integration ''V'' is equal to the area integral over the
current density In electromagnetism Electromagnetism is a branch of physics involving the study of the electromagnetic force, a type of physical interaction that occurs between electric charge, electrically charged particles. The electromagnetic force is c ...

current density
J through the closed surface ''S'' = ∂''V'', which is in turn equal to the net
current Currents or The Current may refer to: Science and technology * Current (fluid) A current in a fluid In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually Deformation (mechanics), deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress, or external force. ...
''I'': : Thus, the conservation of electric charge, as expressed by the continuity equation, gives the result: :I = -\frac. The charge transferred between times t_\mathrm and t_\mathrm is obtained by integrating both sides: :q = \int_^ I\, \mathrmt where ''I'' is the net outward current through a closed surface and ''q'' is the electric charge contained within the volume defined by the surface.


Relativistic invariance

Aside from the properties described in articles about
electromagnetism Electromagnetism is a branch of physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in ...

electromagnetism
, charge is a relativistic invariant. This means that any particle that has charge ''q'' has the same charge regardless of how fast it is travelling. This property has been experimentally verified by showing that the charge of one
helium Helium (from el, ἥλιος, helios Helios; Homeric Greek: ), Latinized as Helius; Hyperion and Phaethon are also the names of his father and son respectively. often given the epithets Hyperion ("the one above") and Phaethon ("the shining" ...

helium
nucleus ''Nucleus'' (plural nuclei) is a Latin word for the seed inside a fruit. It most often refers to: *Atomic nucleus, the very dense central region of an atom *Cell nucleus, a central organelle of a eukaryotic cell, containing most of the cell's DNA ...
(two
proton A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge of +1''e'' elementary charge and a mass slightly less than that of a neutron. Protons and neutrons, each with masses of approximately one atomic mass unit, are collecti ...

proton
s and two
neutron The neutron is a subatomic particle, symbol or , which has a neutral (not positive or negative) charge, and a mass slightly greater than that of a proton. Protons and neutrons constitute the nuclei of atoms. Since protons and neutrons behav ...

neutron
s bound together in a nucleus and moving around at high speeds) is the same as two
deuterium Deuterium (or hydrogen-2, symbol or deuterium, also known as heavy hydrogen) is one of two stable isotopes The term stable isotope has a meaning similar to stable nuclide, but is preferably used when speaking of nuclides of a specific elemen ...

deuterium
nuclei (one proton and one neutron bound together, but moving much more slowly than they would if they were in a helium nucleus).


See also

*
SI electromagnetism units See also * SI * Second The second (symbol: s, abbreviation: sec) is the SI base unit, base unit of time in the International System of Units (SI) (French: Système International d’unités), commonly understood and historically defined as ...
*
Color charge Color charge is a property of quark A quark () is a type of elementary particle In particle physics Particle physics (also known as high energy physics) is a branch of physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη ...
*
Partial charge A partial charge is a non-integer An integer (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communi ...


References


External links

*
How fast does a charge decay?
{{Authority control Chemical properties Conservation laws Electricity Electromagnetism Electrostatics, * Flavour (particle physics) Physical quantities Spintronics