Nature of Charges
When in a natural, or neutral state, an atom has an equal number of electrons and protons. Because of this balance, the net negative charge of the electrons in orbit is exactly balanced by the net positive charge of the protons in the nucleus, making the atom electrically neutral.
An atom becomes a positive ion whenever it loses an electron, and has an overall positive charge. Conversely, whenever an atom acquires an extra electron, it becomes a negative ion and has a negative charge.
Due to normal molecular activity, there are always ions present in any material. If the number of positive ions and negative ions is equal, the material is electrically neutral. When the number of positive ions exceeds the number of negative ions, the material is positively charged. The material is negatively charged whenever the negative ions outnumber the positive ions.
Since ions are actually atoms without their normal number of electrons, it is the excess or the lack of electrons in a substance that determines its charge. In most solids, the transfer of charges is by movement of electrons rather than ions. The transfer of charges by ions will become more significant when we consider electrical activity in liquids and gases. At this time, we will discuss electrical behavior in terms of electron movement.
One of the fundamental laws of electricity is that LIKE CHARGES REPEL EACH OTHER and UNLIKE CHARGES ATTRACT EACH OTHER. A positive charge and negative charge, being unlike, tend to move toward each other. In the atom, the negative electrons are drawn toward the positive protons in the nucleus. This attractive force is balanced by the electron's centrifugal force caused by its rotation about the nucleus. As a result, the electrons remain in orbit and are not drawn into the nucleus. Electrons repel each other because of their like negative charges, and protons repel each other because of their like positive charges.
The law of charged bodies may be demonstrated by a simple experiment. Two pith (paper pulp) balls are suspended near one another by threads, as shown in figure 1-6.
If a hard rubber rod is rubbed with fur to give it a negative charge and is then held against the right-hand ball in part (A), the rod will give off a negative charge to the ball. The right-hand ball will have a negative charge with respect to the left-hand ball. When released, the two balls will be drawn together, as shown in figure 1-6(A). They will touch and remain in contact until the left-hand ball gains a portion of the negative charge of the right-hand ball, at which time they will swing apart as shown in figure 1-6(C). If a positive or a negative charge is placed on both balls (fig. 1-6(B)), the balls will repel each other.
Coulomb's Law of Charges
The relationship between attracting or repelling charged bodies was first discovered and written about by a French scientist named Charles A. Coulomb. Coulomb's Law states that CHARGED BODIES ATTRACT OR REPEL EACH OTHER WITH A FORCE THAT IS DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL TO THE PRODUCT OF THEIR INDIVIDUAL CHARGES, AND IS INVERSELY PROPORTIONAL TO THE SQUARE OF THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THEM.
The amount of attracting or repelling force which acts between two electrically charged bodies in free space depends on two things - (1) their charges and (2) the distance between them.
The space between and around charged bodies in which their influence is felt is called an ELECTRIC FIELD OF FORCE. It can exist in air, glass, paper, or a vacuum. ELECTROSTATIC FIELDS and DIELECTRIC FIELDS are other names used to refer to this region of force.
Fields of force spread out in the space surrounding their point of origin and, in general, DIMINISH IN PROPORTION TO THE SQUARE OF THE DISTANCE FROM THEIR SOURCE.
The field about a charged body is generally represented by lines which are referred to as ELECTROSTATIC LINES OF FORCE. These lines are imaginary and are used merely to represent the direction and strength of the field. To avoid confusion, the lines of force exerted by a positive charge are always shown leaving the charge, and for a negative charge they are shown entering. Figure 1-7 illustrates the use of lines to represent the field about charged bodies.
Figure 1-7(A) represents the repulsion of like-charged bodies and their associated fields. Part (B) represents the attraction of unlike-charged bodies and their associated fields.