# What actually flows, current electricity or charge?

I'm new to electricity and electronics, I started with the essentials on Sparkfun but I'm a little bit confused.

On What is Electricity? under Current Electricity:

Current electricity is the form of electricity which makes all of our electronic gizmos possible. This form of electricity exists when charges are able to constantly flow. As opposed to static electricity where charges gather and remain at rest, current electricity is dynamic, charges are always on the move.

While right next on the same page under Circuits:

In order to flow, current electricity requires a circuit: a closed, never-ending loop of conductive material.

What actually flows? The charge; causing current and the whole thing causes current electricity? Or the current electricity?

What is actually electricity in this context?

Thanks

EDIT:

Thanks, everyone!

## Introduction

To begin, my problem was with the usage of the term "flow" with the terms "charge" and "electricity current" (which was neither "electric current" nor "electrical current") at first.

Then @Andyaka pointed out:

The term "current electricity" is not a term I would use (at all ever (apart from now when mentioning it)). Electrical current is the term I'd use and that "Electrons flow and they possess charge and the rate of flow of charge is current." definition is correct.

That got me into another problem, many websites use the term "Current Electricity" to describe the flow of electrons along a conductor[1, 2].

And some websites use "Current Electricity" too but with the definition: flow of charge, instead of electrons[1, 3].

I asked a nanotechnology graduate, he told me that this definition is correct, and flow may be used for terms:

1. Flow of "electrons" as the current (i.e. current is the flow of electrons...).
2. Flow of "current electricity" if we are relating generally to the direction or the state of moving in a circuit (e.g. our city's current electricity is flowing from that power plant).

## My humble conclusion

I'm still a beginner, but I've done some research and concluded these definitions as the solution to my problem:

• Electric Current is the same as Current Electrecity[3, 4].
• Charge: Electric charge of particles. It is measurable in Coulombs, comes in two types: positive (+) or negative (-).
• Electric Current: the flow of charge carriers (electrons for electronics)[3]. Surrounding electrostatic force pushes or pulls—depending on the charge type of the force—weaker electrons out of the atom causing them to drift carrying their charge and look for other atoms to latch to them. The flow of electrons continues to happen until the electrostatic force disappears.
• The electricity we use to power up our stuff is Electric Current or Current Electricity.
• Lastly, all of the caused confusion is because some tutorials try to simplify things by removing hard definitions leading to wrong understanding (opinion).

I surely may have missed up the whole thing, feel free to correct me and give me advice.

• Electrons flow and they possess charge and the rate of flow of charge is current. Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 10:00
• The term "current electricity" is not a term I would use (at all ever (apart from now when mentioning it)). Electrical current is the term I'd use and that (my first comment) definition is correct. Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 11:06
• Thank you @Andyaka for your time and explanation! Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 13:47
• Thank you @tim for this! Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 13:47
• The second statement is not exactly true. To flow continuously a closed conductive path is required. Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 14:48

Compare it with water, that helps a natural brain to understand things, we are not made for by evolution.

Your positive connection is a empty bucket. The negative connection is a bucket full of water. (many electrons)

Now connect the buckets with a pipe at the bottom. The water (electrons = charge) flows from full to empty bucket.

This flow is the current. I[A]

The height difference of the water level is the voltage. U[V]

The pipe diameter is reverse to the resistance. R[Ohms]

The amount of water difference is the charge (couloumb). C[As]

You can convert As to mAh to get a better feeling for the size.

• The flow of water has only a very superficial similarity to electricity. Maybe it would be ok for DC, but mind that electrons only have a very slow drift velocity, which makes the analogy break down totally for AC. Also the energy transport is totally due to the EM field (the Poynting vector), not because of electrons, "dropping" their energy in the load.
– Bart
Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 10:59
• @Bart : That's right. This comparison is mostly for DC. It can also help to understand slow AC schematics at very low frequencies (< 1Hz) to illustrate caps or also inductors. It's only to help to understand basic schematics. As, if you tell a kid not about complex numbers, but only positive integers from 1 to 100. And you can't devide 7/2. Later you learn, you can. And more later you learn to deal with sqrt(-1). Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 11:41
• Thank you @rundekugel for the easy to absorb explanation! Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 13:44
• Thank you @Bart for pointing out concepts I have to research! Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 13:45
• Water is not a perfect example, but it greatly helps explain to beginners or non-electrical engineers, since most folks have experienced water and can make the connection. Once you get them past the basics, then they dont need to compare to water, and/or need something closer to that next topic of confusion. Since folks, including myself, often make the water connection, it has helped many of us get started. Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 12:29

Electricity is actually more like sound rather than wind. The air molecules significantly move for wind, and although the particles kind of move for sound, what it really moving in the way we care about is the wave moving through the particles.

So the electrons do kind of move in electricity, but it's really the electromagnetic wave that is moving, and it moves at nearly the speed of light. In other words, individual electrons aren't moving back and forth between your house and the power plant 50 or 60 times per second.

To intuitively understand circuits, it is enough to realize that something like a pump (source) produces something like pressure (voltage) that causes something like fluid (electric current) to flow from where it is a lot (the positive source terminal) to where it is a little (the negative terminal) encountering obstacles (resistance) on its way.

Then we need to realize what the connection between these pressure-like, flow-like and impediment-like quantities is (Ohm's law) and to see where currents flow (topology).

Finally, it remains to be seen (in a most general way) what the basic circuit idea is.

The answer is, all of the above. Current is a flow of charge, and electrons possess negative charge so as they flow they each carry a unit of (negative) charge. A positive charge on the other hand is the localized lack of an electron balancing a positively-charged proton in a nucleus. This is sometimes referred to as a hole in semiconductor physics. While positive charges (holes) move, protons themselves don’t.

As far as the mechanics of charge flow in a conductor, this answer explains it a bit more: Does the voltage difference have an effect on the electrons' speed?

Digging a bit deeper, this piece gives a quantum-mechanical view of electromagnetism: https://futurism.com/understanding-quantum-mechanics-what-is-electromagnetism