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12.8: Key Concepts

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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  • Electrons have negative charge and protons have positive charge. The magnitude of the charge is the same for both: .
  • In any closed system, electric charge is conserved. The total electric charge of the universe does not change. Therefore, electric charge can only be transferred not lost from one body to another.
  • Normally, electric charge is transferred when electrons leave the outer orbits of the atoms of one body (leaving it positively charged) and move to the surface of another body (causing the new surface to gain a negative net charge). In a plasma, the fourth state of matter, all electrons are stripped from the atoms, leaving positively charged ions and free electrons.
  • Similarly-charged objects have a repulsive force between them. Oppositely charged objects have an attractive force between them.
  • The value of the electric field tells you the force that a charged object would feel if it entered this field. Electric field lines tell you the direction a positive charge would go if it were placed in the field.
  • Electric potential is measured in units of Volts (V) thus electric potential is often referred to as voltage. Electric potential is the source of the electric potential energy.
  • Positive charges move towards lower electric potential; negative charges move toward higher electric potential. If you are familiar with a contour map then positive charges go 'downhill' and negative charges go 'uphill'.
  • Faraday cages consist of a metal box. All of your sensitive electronics are encased in a metal box called a Faraday cage. The Faraday cage protects everything inside from external electric fields. Basically the electrons in the metal box move around to cancel out the electric field, thus preventing it from coming inside the box and thus preventing movement of charge and possible blown out electronic chips. Cars and airplanes, being enclosed in metal, are also Faraday cages and thus the safest place to be in a lightning storm.

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