Conventional current as a concept is easily understood until the professor says what actually takes place is electron flow. Electron flow moves in the opposite direction as conventional current.

Why doesn't electrical engineering text books teach electron flow current since it reflects the actual situation more accurately?

I am sure I have missed out something. Can the more learned members here enlighten a confused person?


marked as duplicate by The Photon, Mitu Raj, winny, laptop2d, Dmitry Grigoryev May 8 '18 at 8:55

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    \$\begingroup\$ My point being, of course it would be nicer if the "conventional" and real flow were the same, but honestly the problems that this convention causes are much minor than the problem to transition a correction. \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Lee Apr 28 '18 at 11:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ The difference only matters when talking about the low-level details of device physics. The vast majority of engineering is done at a much higher level of abstraction, where the difference doesn't matter at all. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Apr 28 '18 at 11:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user768421 I won't! You're not a lesser mind, but this question isn't a great question, because it presumes people are "wrong". It's just that they aren't more right or wrong :) Electron flow simply doesn't describe current "more accurately", as you put it. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Apr 28 '18 at 11:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ The convention was started before scientists knew that electrons were negatively charged and that they were the majority charge carrier (in most conductors). They picked a direction. And we have stuck with it ever since. The benefits of sticking with the convention outweigh the benefits of changing. Also, everyone who studies electrical engineering knows that electrons are negatively charged and that they are the majority charge carrier in metallic conductors and that the flow opposite to conventional current. It is not really wrong, any more than driving on the right side of the road is wrong \$\endgroup\$ – mkeith Apr 28 '18 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Blame Benjamin Franklin. \$\endgroup\$ – analogsystemsrf Apr 29 '18 at 3:50

Given that a fundamental goal of science is the pursuit of truth, why doesn't electrical engineering text books abandon the concept of conventional current and embrace electron current?

There is no cover-up. Every text book I've seen that has merit talks about current flow and electron flow.

Why is conventional current still taught in school when it is unreal, given that real current flow is electron flow?

  • Conventional current flow is what it is - get used to it.
  • Conventional current is not unreal - get used to it.

Real current flow is electron flow

  • No it isn't - get used to it.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Some welders I spoke to reversed the connections for the piece and the rod to help control the work temperature... \$\endgroup\$ – Solar Mike Apr 28 '18 at 13:18

The electron is NOT the only possible charge carrier...

In metal salt electrolytes for example the ion is the charge carrier, hence conventional current and charge carrier movement are in the same direction. Electro chemistry was a huge deal as an early user of electricity, think electroplating, also things like aluminium and sodium production, it is only fairly recently that power for electronics has exceeded power used for electro chemistry.

Now in a metal the electron is the charge carrier, but that is mostly a metallic conductor thing, in a semiconductor the picture gets WAY more complex.

Unless you are dealing with particle accelerators, electro chemistry or the gory details of semiconductor doping it really does not matter and the math works either way, very few engineers care about electrons particularly, leave that to the physics types.

Any decent physics book discusses charge on the electron, and any decent undergrad EE book mentions it then promptly ignores it outside of the chapter on device physics because it is not generally important to understanding the engineering as opposed to the physics.


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