ELECTRONS IN WIRES JUMP FROM ATOM TO ATOM DURING A CURRENT?
November 15, 2010 Leave a comment
Wrong. When individual atoms of copper are brought together to form a bulk metal material, something unexpected happens. The outer electron of each copper atom leaves its parent atom. Rather than orbiting single atoms, the outer electrons all begin “orbiting” around and among ALL the atoms in the metal. In a sense, the metal’s electrons are “jumping” from atom to atom all the time, even when there is no electric current applied. As a result, metals act like a solid sponge which has been soaked with “liquid charge.” That’s what makes wires so wonderful: they act like pre-filled pipes. They are filled with “liquid electrons.” Not all of the electrons become “loose” and begin wandering. Many are held back, and they remain attached to the atoms. Only the outer electron(s) become part of the “electron sea.” Different metals donate different numbers of electrons to the sea: in some metals, each atom only loses one electron, while in other metals two or more become free. The metal is composed of a mixture: a solid grid of positively-charged atoms which are immersed in a see of movable electrons. When there is an electric current in a wire, it is these movable electrons which flow. These electrons are not stuck to individual metal atoms, so the electrons do not need to “jump” during an electric current. The orbiting motion of the metal’s “liquid” electrons takes place at high speed. However, this motion is similar to the random thermal vibrations of a gas. For this reason we normally ignore the electrons’ wandering motion, just as we ignore the vibration of air molecules when we talk about “wind.” Air molecules keep moving fast even when there is no wind at all. And electrons in metals always wander around at high velocity, even when the electric current is zero.