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Electrons and Electricity

positive ions, potential difference, repulsion, electric field, protons

Electricity refers to the group of effects caused by charged particles, such as electrons and protons. Each charged particle creates an electric field around it that attracts or repels other charged particles. A difference in the amount of attraction or repulsion between any two points in an electrical field is known as a potential difference and is usually measured in volts. The two terminals of a working battery hold different charges: the positively charged terminal attracts electrons, the negative terminal repels them. Because of this difference in attraction, there is a voltage between the terminals. When a piece of metal is connected to the positive and negative terminals of a battery, freely moving conduction electrons will be attracted to and move toward the positive terminal. Such a movement of electric charge is an electric current.

Insulators are substances that do not normally conduct electricity. Scientists can make these substances conduct, however, by applying a very high electric field to the substance, a field strong enough to overcome the outer electron’s attraction to its nucleus and pull the electrons from the atoms. The electrons will move toward the positive terminal and, in a gas, the positive ions (the atoms stripped of their outer electrons) will move toward the negative terminal. Such currents are seen as electrical discharges of light—for example, in neon lamps.

Article key phrases:

positive ions, potential difference, repulsion, electric field, protons, negative terminal, electrical field, charged particles, nucleus, electric current, neon lamps, positive terminal, atoms, Insulators, volts, currents, electricity, attraction, voltage, Scientists, example, gas, points

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