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Electric Current

It has already been noted that conductors are distinguished by the fact that possess large numbers of free electrons that are able to move between atoms in the atomic lattice. If there is no voltage across the conductor, the movement of such electrons is purely arbitrary, i.e. there is no overall direction of motion or specific destination, as shown in the following graphic.

 Basic Electrical Properties

If a DC voltage is applied to the conductor, however, the electrons now move in a specific direction through the conductor and an electric current flows from one pole of the voltage source to the other. The following graphic illustrates this. 

Basic Electrical Properties

Electrons can move more quickly the higher the voltage applied and the less resistance they encounter from the atomic lattice. The current I is  defined as the charge Q that flows through unit a cross section of the conductor in unit time, i.e. 

Basic Electrical Properties

The unit of current is named after the French physicist Ampere (and is abbreviated to "A"). A current of 1 ampere (or amp for short) means that in a unit time of 1 second, a charge of 1 coulomb flows.

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