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Name:________________________________ Regents Physics

Chapter 10- Circuits


Electric current is the rate at which charge passes a given point in a

circuit. An electric circuit is a closed path along which charged
particles move. A switch is a device for making, breaking, or
changing the connections in an electric circuit. The symbol for a
switch is:

The SI unit of electric current, I, is the ampere, A. It is a fundamental unit. The coulomb, C, is
a derived unit defined to be the amount of charge that passes a point when a current of one
ampere flows for one second. Therefore, the equation for current is:

The current, I, is in amperes, charge q is in coulombs, and time t is in seconds. An ammeter is

a device used to measure current. The symbol for an ammeter is:

For Example:

1.) A total of 40 Coulombs of charge pass a given point in a conductor in 10 seconds.

Calculate the current in the conductor.

2.) A wire carries a current of 10.0 amperes. How much charge passes through the wire in
20 seconds?

3.) How much time does it take for 30 Coulombs of charge to pass through a wire carrying a
current of 5.0 amperes?

4.) A wire carries a current of 2.0 amperes. How many electrons pass a given point in this
wire in 4 seconds?
Conditions Necessary for an Electric Current

In addition to a complete circuit, a difference in potential between two points in the circuit must
exist for there to be an electric current. The potential difference must be supplied by a cell, a
device that converts chemical energy to electrical energy, or a battery, a combination of two or
more electrochemical cells. The potential difference can be measured with a device called a
voltmeter. The symbols for each are shown below.

-Negative charges tend to move in the direction of negative potential to positive potential.
The electron flow will be the direction of current.

-For a current to exist in an electric circuit, the circuit must consist of materials through which
charge can move.

Conductivity: a property of a material that depends on the availability of charges that are
relatively free to move under the influence of an electric field. Pure metals have many electrons
that are not bounded. Therefore, metals are good conductors.

Insulators: Nonmetallic elements or compounds that do not allow electrons to move as freely
and are poor conductors.


Electrical resistance, R, is the opposition that a device or conductor offers to the flow of
electric current. Anything that prevents the flow of electrons is considered resistance. The
ohm, , is the unit for resistance.

The resistance of a wire varies directly with its length, L, and inversely with its cross-
sectional area A. Resistivity, , is a characteristic of a material that depends on its electronic
structure and temperature. Good conductors have low resistivities. The SI unit for resistivity
is the ohm.meter, .m. Putting it all together, we arrive at an equation for resistance:

Where length, L is in meters (m) and area is in meters squared (m2). Remember, the area of a
circle (or most wires) is A=r2 where r is the radius of the circle.

Note: As the temperature of a conductor increases, its resistivity increases!

All resistivities are listed in a chart on your reference tables!

When thinking of the resistance of a wire, relate it to the resistance of a garden hose. The hose
represents the wire and the water represents the flow of electrons.

Quick Examples:

1. What happens to the water flow of a garden hose when you increase the length of the hose?
a.) Does the water come out quicker or slower?

b.) Therefore, did the resistance increase or decrease?

2. What happens to the water flow of a garden hose when you increase the opening (radius) of
the hose end?
a.) Does more or less water come out?

b.) Therefore, did the resistance increase or decrease?

Lets try using the new resistance formula:

For Example:

1.) Sketch the graph of Resistance vs. Length of a Wire:

2.) Sketch the graph of Resistance vs. Area of a Wire:

3.) Determine the resistance of a 6.0-meter length of copper wire having a diameter of 4.0 mm.
(copper = 1.72 x 10 -8 .m)
4.) Determine the length of an aluminum wire (aluminum= 2.82 x 10 -8 .m) with a resistance of
0.04 and a radius of 0.03 m.

5.) A 5.0-meter long tin wire has a cross-sectional area of 2.0 x 10 -6 m2 and a resistance of
0.35 . Determine the resistivity of tin.

6.) An aluminum wire has a resistance of 48 . What is the new resistance if:

a.) Length of wire is doubled.

b.) Cross-sectional area is halved.

c.) Length of wire is halved and area is quartered.

d.) Length is doubled and area is doubled.

7.) A gold wire (gold = 2.44 x 10 -8 .m) has a length of 10 meters and a resistance of 0.5 .
Determine the cross-sectional area of the wire.

A resistor is a device designed to have a definite amount of resistance. It can be used in a

circuit to limit current flow or provide a potential drop. A variable resistor is a coil of resistance
wire whose effective resistance can be varied by sliding a contact point. More coil, more
resistance. All electrical objects are considered resistors that drain voltage. Symbol: