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    The number of electrons in the outermost shell determines the valence of an atom. For this reason, the outer shell of an atom is called the VALENCE SHELL; and the electrons contained in this shell are called VALENCE ELECTRONS. The valence of an atom determines its ability to gain or lose an electron, which in turn determines the chemical and electrical properties of the atom. An atom that is lacking only one or two electrons from its outer shell will easily gain electrons to complete its shell, but a large amount of energy is required to free any of its electrons. An atom having a relatively small number of electrons in its outer shell in comparison to the number of electrons required to fill the shell will easily lose these valence electrons. The valence shell always refers to the outermost shell.

Q9.What determines the valence of an atom?   Test Yourself


    When the atom loses electrons or gains electrons in this process of electron exchange, it is said to be IONIZED. For ionization to take place, there must be a transfer of energy which results in a change in the internal energy of the atom. An atom having more than its normal amount of electrons acquires a negative charge, and is called a NEGATIVE ION. The atom that gives up some of its normal electrons is left with less negative charges than positive charges and is called a POSITIVE ION. Thus, ionization is the process by which an atom loses or gains electrons.

Q10.What is an ion?   Test Yourself


    In this study of electricity and electronics, the association of matter and electricity is important. Since every electronic device is constructed of parts made from ordinary matter, the effects of electricity on matter must be well understood. As a means of accomplishing this, all elements of which matter is made may be placed into one of three categories: CONDUCTORS, SEMICONDUCTORS, and INSULATORS, depending on their ability to conduct an electric current. CONDUCTORS are elements which conduct electricity very readily, INSULATORS have an extremely high resistance to the flow of electricity. All matter between these two extremes may be called SEMICONDUCTORS.

    The electron theory states that all matter is composed of atoms and the atoms are composed of smaller particles called protons, electrons, and neutrons. The electrons orbit the nucleus which contains the protons and neutrons. It is the valence electrons that we are most concerned with in electricity. These are the electrons which are easiest to break loose from their parent atom. Normally, conductors have three or less valence electrons; insulators have five or more valence electrons; and semiconductors usually have four valence electrons.

    The electrical conductivity of matter is dependent upon the atomic structure of the material from which the conductor is made. In any solid material, such as copper, the atoms which make up the molecular structure are bound firmly together. At room temperature, copper will contain a considerable amount of heat energy. Since heat energy is one method of removing electrons from their orbits, copper will contain many free electrons that can move from atom to atom. When not under the influence of an external force, these electrons move in a haphazard manner within the conductor. This movement is equal in all directions so that electrons are not lost or gained by any part of the conductor. When controlled by an external force, the electrons move generally in the same direction. The effect of this movement is felt almost instantly from one end of the conductor to the other. This electron movement is called an ELECTRIC CURRENT.

    Some metals are better conductors of electricity than others. Silver, copper, gold, and aluminum are materials with many free electrons and make good conductors. Silver is the best conductor, followed by copper, gold, and aluminum. Copper is used more often than silver because of cost. Aluminum is used where weight is a major consideration, such as in high-tension power lines, with long spans between supports. Gold is used where oxidation or corrosion is a consideration and a good conductivity is required. The ability of a conductor to handle current also depends upon its physical dimensions. Conductors are usually found in the form of wire, but may be in the form of bars, tubes, or sheets.
Nonconductors have few free electrons. These materials are called INSULATORS. Some examples of these materials are rubber, plastic, enamel, glass, dry wood, and mica. Just as there is no perfect conductor, neither is there a perfect insulator.

    Some materials are neither good conductors nor good insulators, since their electrical characteristics fall between those of conductors and insulators. These in-between materials are classified as SEMICONDUCTORS. Germanium and silicon are two common semiconductors used in solid-state devices.

Q11.What determines whether a substance is a conductor or an insulator?   Test Yourself


    Electrostatics (electricity at rest) is a subject with which most persons entering the field of electricity and electronics are somewhat familiar. For example, the way a person's hair stands on end after a vigorous rubbing is an effect of electrostatics. While pursuing the study of electrostatics, you will gain a better understanding of this common occurrence. Of even greater significance, the study of electrostatics will provide you with the opportunity to gain important background knowledge and to develop concepts which are essential to the understanding of electricity and electronics.
Interest in the subject of static electricity can be traced back to the Greeks. Thales of Miletus, a Greek philosopher and mathematician, discovered that when an amber rod is rubbed with fur, the rod has the amazing characteristic of attracting some very light objects such as bits of paper and shavings of wood.

    About 1600, William Gilbert, an English scientist, made a study of other substances which had been found to possess qualities of attraction similar to amber. Among these were glass, when rubbed with silk, and ebonite, when rubbed with fur. Gilbert classified all the substances which possessed properties similar to those of amber as electrics, a word of Greek origin meaning amber.

    Because of Gilbert's work with electrics, a substance such as amber or glass when given a vigorous rubbing was recognized as being ELECTRIFIED, or CHARGED with electricity.

    In the year 1733, Charles Dufay, a French scientist, made an important discovery about electrification. He found that when a glass was rubbed with fur, both the glass rod and the fur became electrified. This realization came when he systematically placed the glass rod and the fur near other electrified substances and found that certain substances which were attracted to the glass rod were repelled by the fur, and vice versa. From experiments such as this, he concluded that there must be two exactly opposite kinds of electricity.

    Benjamin Franklin, American statesman, inventor, and philosopher, is credited with first using the terms POSITIVE and NEGATIVE to describe the two opposite kinds of electricity. The charge produced on a glass rod when it is rubbed with silk, Franklin labeled positive. He attached the term negative to the charge produced on the silk. Those bodies which were not electrified or charged, he called NEUTRAL.


    In a natural, or neutral state, each atom in a body of matter will have the proper number of electrons in orbit around it. Consequently, the whole body of matter composed of the neutral atoms will also be electrically neutral. In this state, it is said to have a "zero charge." Electrons will neither leave nor enter the neutrally charged body should it come in contact with other neutral bodies. If, however, any number of electrons are removed from the atoms of a body of matter, there will remain more protons than electrons and the whole body of matter will become ELECTRICALLY POSITIVE. Should the positively charged body come in contact with another body having a normal charge, or having a NEGATIVE (too many electrons) charge, an electric current will flow between them. Electrons will leave the more negative body and enter the positive body. This electron flow will continue until both bodies have equal charges. When two bodies of matter have unequal charges and are near one another, an electric force is exerted between them because of their unequal charges. However, since they are not in contact, their charges cannot equalize. The existence of such an electric force, where current cannot flow, is referred to as static electricity. ("Static" in this instance means "not moving.") It is also referred to as an electrostatic force.

    One of the easiest ways to create a static charge is by friction. When two pieces of matter are rubbed together, electrons can be "wiped off" one material onto the other. If the materials used are good conductors, it is quite difficult to obtain a detectable charge on either, since equalizing currents can flow easily between the conducting materials. These currents equalize the charges almost as fast as they are created. A static charge is more easily created between nonconducting materials. When a hard rubber rod is rubbed with fur, the rod will accumulate electrons given up by the fur, as shown in figure 1-5. Since both materials are poor conductors, very little equalizing current can flow, and an electrostatic charge builds up. When the charge becomes great enough, current will flow regardless of the poor conductivity of the materials. These currents will cause visible sparks and produce a crackling sound.

Q12.How is a negative charge created in a neutral body?   Test Yourself
Q13.How are static charges created?   Test Yourself

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