When an electron turns on a LED, a lamp or moves an engine, I guess the electron is not lost, what happens is that it loses energy

What really happens, "returns home" in an orbit lower than he had before doing his job?


  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ You don't get to know what really happens. We don't even know that electrons or atoms actually exist. What we do know is that our atomic models and particle models that assume certain properties and theoretical behaviors appear to do a good job of predicting results at our emergent level of observation. So all we have are models. Models all the way down. Which level of model do you care about? (None of them are reality. Some are just more broadly accurate than others.) \$\endgroup\$
    – jonk
    Feb 16, 2020 at 20:20
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ It is made redundant and collects unemployment benefit :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 16, 2020 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, I recommend you get and read "The Role of Induced emf's in Simple Circuits," American Journal of Physics, 1984. It will teach you a completely new way to understand what a voltmeter actually measures in a circuit containing induced emf's. It will twist your mind, I'm sure. And it only deals with the simplest of circuits, too. Get your mind wrapped around that article and come back. (I don't think most people here understand what that article shows and would be shocked by it, frankly.) Observation of reality is interesting. \$\endgroup\$
    – jonk
    Feb 16, 2020 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jonk: That article seems to require some kind of paid access. \$\endgroup\$
    – JRE
    Feb 16, 2020 at 20:38
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Think of what happens to a water molecule after it has spun the turbine. Electrons are kind of the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – TemeV
    Feb 16, 2020 at 20:50

1 Answer 1


It depends on the mechanism which made the electron to move. You should notice that the generated fields do the job, electrons only move how they are forced. Their movement carries the field along the wires as we understand the conductivity.

If it happens that your electron has started his trip from a chemical battery and survives the whole current loop back into the battery without becoming trapped for another job during the trip he can very likely settle to a lower energy orbit in the lower energy end product in the battery process. If a generator pushes the electron to move he very likely returns to the same category orbit where he was catched from when the generator took him.

As others have already said electrons are only supposed to exist because their existence is a good looking explanation for many phenomens. Writing a story of an individual electron is useless, because observable macroscopic effects are based on the statistical behaviour of billions of trillions of electrons.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course I spoke of a single electron as an example It is a way of trying to understand what is the difference between the electrons that have lit a LED and those that have not Thank you for your excellent response. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mario
    Feb 16, 2020 at 22:32

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