electricity 372 TESLA-Institute


Static electricity also familiarly exists when we rub balloons on our head to make our hair stand up, or when we shuffle on the floor with fuzzy slippers and shock the family cat (accidentally, of course). In each case, friction from rubbing different types of materials transfers electrons. The object losing electrons becomes positively charged, while the object gaining electrons becomes negatively charged. The two objects become attracted to each other until they can find a way to equalize.

Working with electronics, we generally don’t have to deal with static electricity. When we do, we’re usually trying to protect our sensitive electronic components from being subjected to a static discharge. Preventative measures against static electricity include wearing ESD (electrostatic discharge) wrist straps, or adding special components in circuits to protect against very high spikes of charge.

Current Electricity

Current electricity is the form of electricity which makes all of our electronic gizmos possible. This form of electricity exists when charges are able to constantly flow. As opposed to static electricity where charges gather and remain at rest, current electricity is dynamic, charges are always on the move. We’ll be focusing on this form of electricity throughout the rest of the tutorial.


In order to flow, current electricity requires a circuit: a closed, never-ending loop of conductive material. A circuit could be as simple as a conductive wire connected end-to-end, but useful circuits usually contain a mix of wire and other components which control the flow of electricity. The only rule when it comes to making circuits is they can’t have any insulating gaps in them.

If you have a wire full of copper atoms and want to induce a flow of electrons through it, all free electrons need somewhere to flow in the same general direction. Copper is a great conductor, perfect for making charges flow. If a circuit of copper wire is broken, the charges can’t flow through the air, which will also prevent any of the charges toward the middle from going anywhere.

On the other hand, if the wire were connected end-to-end, the electrons all have a neighboring atom and can all flow in the same general direction.

Electric Fields

We have a handle on how electrons flow through matter to create electricity. That’s all there is to electricity. Well, almost all. Now we need a source to induce the flow of electrons. Most often that source of electron flow will come from an electric field.

What’s a Field?

A field is a tool we use to model physical interactions which don’t involve any observable contact. Fields can’t be seen as they don’t have a physical appearance, but the effect they have is very real.

We’re all subconsciously familiar with one field in particular: Earth’s gravitational field, the effect of a massive body attracting other bodies. Earth’s gravitational field can be modeled with a set of vectors all pointing into the center of the planet; regardless of where you are on the surface, you’ll feel the force pushing you towards it.

gravitational feld TESLA-Institute

The strength or intensity of fields isn’t uniform at all points in the field. The further you are from the source of the field the less effect the field has. The magnitude of Earth’s gravitational field decreases as you get further away from the center of the planet.

As we go on to explore electric fields in particular remember how Earth’s gravitational field works, both fields share many similarities. Gravitational fields exert a force on objects of mass, and electric fields exert a force on objects of charge.



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