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Thread: Electrons - when they move from Atom to Atom - where do they end up?

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  1. #1
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    Electrons - when they move from Atom to Atom - where do they end up?

    I had a recent question posed by a student - when the free electron on the outer valance of the copper atom is freed when power is generated by a generator - what happens to it once the produce current is consumed - Or is it possible to deplete the electrons in the copper wire? Don't know the answer so if you think its dumb - I am asking a smart question since I don't know the answer.

    Thank Sparky of the North

  2. #2
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    First of all, I am surprised there is no "Theory" forum in existence that this would be an appropriate inquiry for.
    To answer the question; they just keep going in a never ending cycle...think of it...as I believe you said...."the wiring does not deplete...".
    David A Engelhart
    Florida Electrical Inspector BN4045 Plans Examiner PX2057
    ICC (International Codes Council) Certified 1&2 Family Dwelling Inspector
    Florida Fire College and ICC Fire Safety Inspector I and Plans Examiner
    2011 President Joseph A Schneeberger/Florida Gulf Coast Division, Florida Chapter, Southern Section International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI).

  3. #3
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    charge is neither consumed or destroyed, it is only moved around, per the laws of thermodynamics. Once the force that was applied to move the charges around is removed, the natural entropy prevails. (try a physics forum for more specifics on this)

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    Quote Originally Posted by johngary View Post
    I had a recent question posed by a student - when the free electron on the outer valance of the copper atom is freed when power is generated by a generator - what happens to it once the produce current is consumed - Or is it possible to deplete the electrons in the copper wire? Don't know the answer so if you think its dumb - I am asking a smart question since I don't know the answer.

    Thank Sparky of the North
    The electrons are not consumed they just transfer energy from one place to another. The energy is what is consumed.

    Some debate whether or not the electrons actually "flow" or if they are just "bumped".

    This would be similar to a wave in the ocean. The water transfers a wave of energy but really does not have much movement of water itself.

    Whether they actually flow or not, remember a circuit is a loop, if they do flow they do not disappear they just end up somewhere else in the loop.

  5. #5
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    Copper has 29 electrons and one valence electron. When a free electron(1) knocks the valence electron(2) free from it's orbit (bump theory), the electron(1) transfers it's energy to the second electron(2). The first electron settles into orbit, making the second electron the free electron. Electrons are never depleted, they are replaced.

    Think billiard balls for energy transfer.

    Another question... where does the very first free electron come from when electricity is produced by a generator? If all the electrons in a dead wire are neutral, what is the very first thing that happens to make electricity? A free electron has to come from somewhere, where and how is it "stripped" from another copper atom to start the process of energy transfer?

  6. #6
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    Magic smoke, when it leave everything stops.

    In AC the potential moves back and forth at 60 hz. The potential is created when the polarity of the magnets on the generator cycle from pole to pole. Hence no loss of electrons just push pull.

    In DC it is created from a chemical action stripping electrons from high electronegative atom source to less electronegative atom source. It gets weaker as oxides build up between this boundary in the battery of dissimilar metals.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hv&Lv View Post
    Copper has 29 electrons and one valence electron. When a free electron(1) knocks the valence electron(2) free from it's orbit (bump theory), the electron(1) transfers it's energy to the second electron(2). The first electron settles into orbit, making the second electron the free electron. Electrons are never depleted, they are replaced.

    Think billiard balls for energy transfer.

    Another question... where does the very first free electron come from when electricity is produced by a generator? If all the electrons in a dead wire are neutral, what is the very first thing that happens to make electricity? A free electron has to come from somewhere, where and how is it "stripped" from another copper atom to start the process of energy transfer?
    Another question, is the displacement a quantum leap, or does the electron actually occupy the space in between atoms as it travels?
    Cheers and Stay Safe,

    Marky the Sparky

  8. #8
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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_current

    Metals

    A solid conductive metal contains mobile, or free electrons, originating in the conduction electrons. These electrons are bound to the metal lattice but no longer to an individual atom. Even with no external electric field applied, these electrons move about randomly due to thermal energy but, on average, there is zero net current within the metal. Given a surface through which a metal wire passes, electrons move in both directions across the surface at an equal rate. As George Gamow put in his science-popularizing book, One, Two, Three...Infinity (1947), "The metallic substances differ from all other materials by the fact that the outer shells of their atoms are bound rather loosely, and often let one of their electrons go free. Thus the interior of a metal is filled up with a large number of unattached electrons that travel aimlessly around like a crowd of displaced persons. When a metal wire is subjected to electric force applied on its opposite ends, these free electrons rush in the direction of the force, thus forming what we call an electric current."

    When a metal wire is connected across the two terminals of a DC voltage source such as a battery, the source places an electric field across the conductor. The moment contact is made, the free electrons of the conductor are forced to drift toward the positive terminal under the influence of this field. The free electrons are therefore the charge carrier in a typical solid conductor.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by K8MHZ View Post
    Another question, is the displacement a quantum leap, or does the electron actually occupy the space in between atoms as it travels?
    If memory serves me well, and using a simplified model, the solid-matter electron orbits overlap. Think in 3D rather than using the typical 2D representation of an atom. So there is no "space" between atoms of a solid... there is only space between neuclei.
    I'll never get there. No matter where I go, I'm always here.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smart $ View Post
    If memory serves me well, and using a simplified model, the solid-matter electron orbits overlap. Think in 3D rather than using the typical 2D representation of an atom. So there is no "space" between atoms of a solid... there is only space between neuclei.
    I think alot of the confusion comes from the simplified models showing an atom with the shells being just like a solar system where the planets revolve around a star...

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