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All matter in its natural state is electrically neutral. There are the same amounts of
positive and negative charge. It was observed that rubbing two materials together
sometimes resulted in both materials acquiring opposite net charges. In this process, the
outermost or valence electrons in one material were transferred to the second material.
The first material would be charged positive (the electron’s charge is negative) and the
second material would be charged negative. It was noted that like charges repelled each
other and opposite charges attracted each other. By using an electroscope, the polarity
and relative strength of the charge could be determined.
Conductors are materials that allow charge to flow easily through them. Most metals are
excellent conductors. Insulators are materials that do not permit the flow of charge.
Semiconductors are partial conductors whose conductivity can be manipulated. They
are the backbone of all digital electronics. Superconductors allow total conductivity
without a loss of energy due to resistive heating. Some materials become superconductors
at extremely low temperatures.
An uncharged conductor will acquire the same type of charge as a charged conductor if
they come into contact. This process is called charging by conduction.
An uncharged conductor can acquire the opposite charge of a charged conductor through
the process of charging by induction. A charged object is held near the surface of the
uncharged conductor, which causes the charge distribution in the uncharged conductor to
be polarized. Direct contact to the polarized surface farthest from the held charged
conductor by a third conductor, will cause the removal of charge from the originally
uncharged conductor, leaving it with the opposite charge.
Coulomb’s experiments with a torsion balance produced an equation relating the force
between two static charges to their charge strength and separation.
F = kq 1 q 2 /r 2
The separation distance between the two charges is r and k = 9x10 9 Nm 2 /C 2 .
The electric field is defined as the force per unit of positive charge.
E = F/q
F = qE
Q = F/E
You can determine the direction of the electric field at a particular location in space by
placing an imaginary positive test charge at that location and summing the attractive and
repulsive forces experienced by the test charge due to the other charges.
It takes work to push two like charges closer or to separate two opposite charges. This
work increases the potential energy of the charges. If we released these two charges, they
would accelerate, and increase their kinetic energy. The change in electrical potential
energy per unit of positive charge is called the electrical potential difference or voltage
 V =  PE/q
 PE = q  V
q =  PE/  V
The electrical potential energy difference is generated by doing work on the charges
against the electrical field. Applying equations (5) and (3) yields:
 V = Ed