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Charge Definition Physics

What Is Charge?

A charge is a basic feature of matter that, according to physics, governs how particles interact. It is an electrical characteristic measured in units called Coulomb (C) and can be either positive or negative.

Charge Definition Physics

A charge may be defined as an object's ability to attract or repel other charged items. A positively charged object, for instance, will draw another positively charged object away while repelling a negatively charged thing.

Charges can move between things, resulting in an electric current, a movement of charged particles. It is possible to use this stream of charged particles to power various electrical gadgets.

Charged objects and particles generate electric fields. These fields, responsible for the interactions between charged objects, may also be used productively in devices like electric motors.

Origin of Charge

In physics, the idea of charge has a lengthy and intricate history. The ancient Greeks, for example, were aware that some materials might attract or repel one another when they were rubbed together. Still, they needed a logical methodology to understand why this happened.

It was in the 18th century that electric charges began to make sense. Charles-Augustin de Coulomb, a French scientist, tested the inverse square law of electrostatic attraction, which says that the force between two charged objects is inversely proportional to their square of the distance and proportionate to the product of their charges.

Coulomb's experiments led to the development of electrostatics, which examines the behavior of resting charges. However, French scientist Charles-Augustin de Coulomb was one of the important players in the early understanding of electric charge.

Coulomb's most well-known work pertains to electrostatics, which examines the conduct of static electric charges. In the late 18th century, Coulomb conducted several experiments to test the law of inverse squares of electrostatic attraction, which indicates that the force between two charged objects corresponds to the product of their charges and is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

The science of electrostatics was developed due to Coulomb's experiments, and it is still a vital area of study today. The Coulomb (C), a unit of electric charge in the International System of Units (SI), bears his name in honor of his contributions to physics. But physicists started comprehending the connection between electric charges and currents in the 19th century.

Hans Christian Oersted, a Danish scientist who discovered in 1820 that a magnetic field could cause a nearby compass needle to be deflected, was one of the important pioneers in this breakthrough. This made it apparent that electric currents and vice versa produce magnetic fields.

The electron, a subatomic particle with a negative charge, was discovered in the latter half of the nineteenth century. This was yet another important development. Due to this, the theory of electromagnetism, which combined magnetic and electric phenomena into a single framework, was developed.

Our knowledge of charge today is based on the standard model of particle physics, which covers the behavior of basic particles, including electrons, protons, and neutrons. According to this theory, the interaction between particles and electric and magnetic fields is governed by a basic feature of particles known as electric charge. Particle physics research is still being done on the cause of this charge. Many physicists contributed to the evolution of electric charges over time.

Charge Definition Physics

Roles of Charges in Physics

Many branches of physics, such as electrostatics, electrodynamics, and quantum mechanics, depend critically on electric charges. These are some of the major functions that charges perform:

  • Charges produce electric fields and are essential to comprehending how charges interact. Many useful technologies, such as electric motors, generators, and transformers, are based on electric fields.
  • Coulomb's law: This law describes the interaction between two charged particles. This law's foundational principle, known as the inverse square law, states that the force among two charged objects is inversely related to the square of the distance separating them and proportionate to the product of their charges.
  • The amount of energy per unit charge needed to carry a small test charge to a given place in space is known as the electric potential at that location. Knowledge of how charges travel in electric circuits requires knowledge of this idea.
  • Electric current is the passage of charged particles, most frequently electrons. The field of electromagnetism studies the pattern of charge flow in the presence of electric and magnetic fields.
  • Magnetic fields are produced by moving charges and may be utilized to build electric motors and generators. The interaction of electric and magnetic fields is the basis for studying electrodynamics.
  • A fundamental property of particles in quantum physics is electric charge. Gauge bosons, virtual particles, are used to interchange between particles with various charges to interact.

Charge's Nature and Characteristics

  • One of the matter's basic properties is a charge. It alludes to the electric charge that fundamental particles like electrons and protons carry. Charges come in two flavors: positive and negative.
  • Coulombs are units used to measure an object's charge. The charge of an electron, which is around 1.6 x 10-19 coulombs, is the fundamental charge unit. A proton's charge is equivalent to an electron's magnitude but not a sign.
  • While opposing charges attract one another like charges repel one another. The name of this is Coulomb's law. The force between two charges is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them and the product of the charges.
  • A charge cannot be generated or destroyed since it is preserved. An isolated system's overall charge doesn't change over time. The law of conservation of charge is responsible for this.
  • Friction, conduction, and induction are ways charge may be transferred from one item to another. The objects get charged with opposing charges when electrons are transported from one to the other.
  • Many physical phenomena depend heavily on a charge, including electricity, magnetism, and electrochemistry. Numerous technical applications, such as electronics and telecommunications, are built on this foundation.

Basic Characteristics of Charge

The underlying makeup of charge is a challenging subject that scientists are working to comprehend completely. However, according to what is known now, it is thought that subatomic particles like electrons and protons have charged as a characteristic.

Protons are positively charged particles found inside an atom's nucleus, whereas electrons are negatively charged particles that circle the nucleus of an atom. A proton's and electron's charges have the same magnitude but different signs. Also found inside the nucleus are neutrons, which have no charge.

Scientists are currently investigating the precise nature of the charge, but they have put out several proposals to explain its fundamental makeup. According to one hypothesis, charge results through the interchange of virtual photons, which are electromagnetic force carriers. It is also possible that a field that penetrates the entire universe and interacts with charged particles has the attribute of charge.

By considering mathematical equations and models, the behavior of charge may be defined and predicted regardless of its precise composition, and the same can be used to process further for usage. A charge is vital to our comprehension of the natural world and is key to various scientific processes, such as electricity, magnetism, and electrochemistry.

Behavioral Aspects of Charge

One of matter's basic properties, electric charge, is essential to many physical events. This part will examine how charge behaves in various situations and states.

  • First, we may consider how the charge behaves in a static condition. In this situation, charged particles are immobile and at rest. Coulomb's law, which states that similar charges repel one other and opposite charges attract each other, governs the behavior of charged objects in a static condition. This law explains how static electricity behaves, including why a balloon and a jumper are attracted to one another.
  • The behavior of a charge in motion is something else we may think about. Charged particles are in motion and can produce a current in this situation. The rules of electromagnetism, which define how electric and magnetic fields interact, control how charged particles behave in motion. A charged particle's motion produces a magnetic field that can interact with other nearby charged particles. Electric motors and generators, for example, are built on this principle.
  • We may think about how charge behaves in conductors and insulators as our third option. A substance is either a conductor or an insulator, depending on how easily charge may go through it. Ohm's law, which links a circuit's resistance, voltage, and current, governs how charge behaves in conductors. On the other hand, the material's electrical characteristics, such as its resistivity and dielectric constant, control how charge behaves in insulators.
  • We may consider how charge behaves in plasma as our fourth option. Ionized atoms can interact with one another as charged particles in a state of matter called plasma. The rules of plasma physics, which explain the behavior of ionized gases, regulate how charge behaves in plasma. Lightning, stars, and fusion reactors are just a few examples of the many natural and artificial systems, including plasma.
  • Finally, we may think about how charge behaves in quantum physics. In this context, wave functions that indicate the likelihood of detecting a particle at a specific position characterize charged particles. The Schrdinger equation, which explains how the wave function changes over time, controls how charge behaves in quantum physics. This theory, which explains how charged particles behave in atoms and molecules, has helped progress science and technology in electronics and quantum computing.

Generation of Charge

We have to understand the structure of atoms to comprehend how the charge is produced. Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons have a positive charge, neutrons have no charge, and electrons have a negative charge. The protons and neutrons are in the atom's nucleus, and the electrons orbit around it.

An atom becomes charged when one or more electrons are added or removed. For instance, if an atom adds one electron, it changes its charge since it now has more electrons than protons and is thus negatively charged. One atom becomes positively charged if one electron is lost because it has fewer electrons than protons.

A substance may interact with other charged things once it has a net charge. While opposing charges attract one another like charges repel one another. This interaction is governed by Coulomb's law, which states that the force between two charged objects is inversely proportional to their separation and proportionate to the product of their charges.

Charged particles in motion can produce electric currents. The movement of charged particles through a medium, such as electrons, is an electric current. A voltage differential between two places in a circuit might cause this charge flow. Voltage, produced by the movement of charge, measures the electric potential energy per unit charge.

Magnetic fields also have an impact on the mobility of charged particles. A force perpendicular to the magnetic field and the charged particle's velocity is experienced when the charged particle travels through a magnetic field. The Lorentz force law, which says that a charged particle experiences a force proportionate to its charge, velocity, and magnetic field strength, describes this force.


A key part of many physical processes is played by the basic feature of matter known as electric charge. It can be positive or negative and is produced by the motion of charged particles. According to Coulomb's law, opposing charges attract one another while like charges repel one another. The rules of electromagnetism, which explain the interplay between electric and magnetic fields, control the behavior of charged particles in motion. An electric current, the movement of charged particles through a medium, can be produced when charged particles are in motion. Numerous branches of science and technology, such as electronics, electromagnetism, plasma physics, and quantum mechanics, all depend on our knowledge of electric charge.

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