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Current Electricity





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Current Electricity

Examples of electric currents abound, ranging from the

large currents that constitute Ilghtning strokes to the tiny

nerve currents that regulate our muscular activity. The

current in household wiring, in lightbulbs, and in electrical

appHancesare familiar to all. A beam of electrons (a current) moves through an evacuated space in the picture tube of a common television set. Charged

particles of both signs flow in the ionized gases of

fluorescent lamps, in the batteries of radios, and in car

_batteries. Electric currents can also be found in the

semiconductors in calculators and in the chips that control microwave ovens and electric dish washers.

This chapter will focus on electric current that is charges

in motion.


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IIT-JEE Syllabus Electric current

Mechanics of current flow in metallicconductor Ohm's law

Variation of resistivity with temperature

Specific resistance of the material of a wire using a meter bridge.

Measurement of unknown resistance using a post office Box. Kirchhoff's Law

Grouping of resistance

Energy, power and heating effect. Maximum power transfer theorem Wheatstone Bridge

Grouping of identicalcells. R-C-circuit.




Verification of ohm's law using voltmeter and ammeters. Potentiometer.









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r","·"r~w···'····;;~;:~·::···~·······"'···"'l·"······"···· _ " _"' " ···.·.·.· ····.·· ···.·· · w ,,· w.w ·w·,,···"'· ····1

~ l·~~b~~;:~w/'$"d ~

! Electric current, Ohm's law, series and parallel arrangements of resistances and cells, Kirchhoff's laws and i

, . .

! simple applications of heating effect of current. Ammeter and voltmeter, verification of ohm's law using t

! voltmeter. Meter bridge, Post office box. i

t .,_ .._..,..., ~ .. , , .....,.. .. , """ .. .1'.. , Y'o ..,.. '"' , , , ,." ••• ,."~ •• , ·," ••• ~ ~· ••• ·.~> ·}~·."'.; .. v+"+",·_ .. ,.·, '"·~.·,., ', , .. ' ' ' •• , , ' .- ., Yo .. Yo .- _:


. Flow of' electric charge constitutes electric current. For a given conductor, if

'8Q' charge flows through a cross-section of area A in time 'sr. then the electric t' lB

current through the conductor is given as I = 8Q

. 5t 1...----111-16---.11

The current so defined above, is the average current over the period 81. The instantaneous current is given as I = dQ

dt '

Direction of electric current as defined above will be taken along the direction of flow of positive charge. (Although in majority of conductors the charge carrier is electron which is negatively charged and hence electric current would be in a direction opposite to that of flow of electrons)

Despite the direction that we associate with eiectric current, electric current is not a vector quantity. Instead, we choose current density (D, that is current flowing through unit area of the cross-section, as a vector quantity.

A particle having charge q coulomb describes a circular orbit. If radius of the orbit is R and frequency of the orbital motion of particle is f, then find the current in the orbit.

Solution: Through any section of the orbit, the charge passes f times in one second. Therefore, through that section, total charge passing in one second is fq. By definition i = fq .

The current in a, wire varies with time according to the equation I = 4 + 2t, where I is in ampere and t sec. Calculate the quantity of charge which has passed through a cross-section of the wire during the time t = 2 sec to t = 6 sec.

Solution: Let dq be the charge which has passed in a small interval of time dt. Then dq = i dt = (4+2t) dt

Hence, total charge passed during the interval t = 2 sec and t = 6 sec is

q = f:(4+2t) dt ;;;: 48 coulomb

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CRP-78-Current Electricity

Physics 12

Mechanism of current flow in a metallic conductor

Flow of current in metals is due to preferential flow offree electrons. In the absence of any externally applied emf (by means ota battery), the free electrons move randomly through the metal from one pojnt to another giving zero net current.

When connected to a battery, the free electrons get accelerated due to the electric field (set up by the battery) and.they gain velocity and energy. However, the passage is not smooth and the electrons collide with the lattice ions in which the ultimate gainer (of energy) is the ion. As we know the temperature of a body is related with the energy of vibrations. of these ions, these collisions resutt in increase in temperature of the metal. The loss of energy of electrons incoUision and their acceleration by the electric field, finally, results in drifting of electrons in a particular dlrectlon. (Although the actual motion of electrons is erratic, the overall effect is of drifting of electrons).

The motion of the conduction electrons in an electric field E is thus a combination of the motion due to random collisions and that due to E. When we consider all the free electrons, their random motion averaqeto zero and make no contributTon to thedri ft. speed. Thus, the drift speed is only due to the effect of the electric field on the electrons.

If an electron of mass m is placed in an electric field of magnitude E, the electron will experience an

acceleratlon given by Newton's second law. ..

_ F eE


m m

The nature of the collisicns experienced by conduction electrons is such that, after a typical COllision, each electron will completely lose the memory of its previous drift velocity. Each electron will then start off fresh after every encounter, moving off in a random direction. In the average time 1: (relaxation time) between coulslons, the average drift speed of electron .is Vd = ar, Moreover, if we measure the drift speeds of all the electrons at any instant, we will find that their average drift. speed is also ar,

- eE

i.e, Vd = --1:.


If Vd be the drift velocity and 'n' be the number of such free electrons per unit volume, then the current through the conductor is 1= neAvd (where e = magnitude of an electron's charge, and A = cross sectional

~ I -

area) and the current density J = A = -neVd

=:> Vd = l ;; _ e'tE

ne m

=:> E = ( ~ ) 1 =:> P = -;- (where p ls.reslstlvlty) .

e nr e nr .

Exercise 1

One billion electrons pass from A to B in a conductor in·1 ms. Wh,t is the-direction and magnitude of current?

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Physics 13

. CRP~78-Current Electricity


. Ne (109)(1.6x10-19) . -7 . I :;;;; - = 1 -3 = 1 .6 x 10 A . to.

=::;, i = 0.16 ~. The current flows from B to A.

A copper wire of cross-section 2 mm2 carries a current of 30 A. Calculate the root-meansquare velocity (thermal velocity) of free, electrons at 21°C. Also, prove that Vd is very small compared to it.

[Data given: Pcu = 8.9 gm/cc, Boltzmann constant (k) = 1.38 x 10-23 JfK me = 9.1 x 1o-J1 kg, NA = 6.023 X 1023, atomic weight of Cu = 63.]

Solution: Vrms = [3kT = 1.17x105 m/s; Vd ~ _1-

~m neA

63 gm of Cu = 6.023 x 1023 Cu atoms.

8.9gmof Cu = 6.023x~~23 x8.9 Cu atoms = 1 cc of Cu atoms.

=::;, 1 m3 of Cu = 8.5 x 1028 Cu atoms.

Now, each Cu atom contributes one electron. =::;, n = 8.5 x 1028 electron 51m3•

I 30 . 3

=::;, V d = -- =. = 1.1x 10- mls

neA n(1.6x10-19)x(2x10-S).

It is clear that v~ is much smaller than Vthermal' OHM'S LAW

It states that current flowing between two· paints in ~ conductor is directly proportional to the potential

difference between the two points. - .'

l.e. I a: V, provided temperature is constant =::;, . V:;;;; constant(R) ~ V= \IR

. I ' --'

The constant 'R' is called resistance of the conductor. .

Ohm's Law is not universal O.e. all conductors do not. obey Ohm's law). Conductor obeying Ohm's law are called Ohmic conductors. However, resistance is always defined as the ratio VII.

For a conductor of cross-sectional area A, resistance between the sections A and B separated by length 1!

is given by, . .



where e = length of the conductor, A = Area of cross-section, and p = resistivity or specific resistance of the conductor.

o = ..!. = conductlvlty or specific conductance

p .

c ..

Exercise 2 .

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CRP-78-Current Electricity

PhysiCS 14

solution: To calculate current through the conductor, we have to calculate effective resistance between its two ends. So, we will consider the. differential element of the cylindrical shell having radius x and thickness dx as shown in the figure.




. R2 dx

.. R=Jp-

R, 21tX1

::;. R = 2~/ln (R~J


1=- ::;.


A cylindrical conductor of length l and inner and outer radii radius R1 and R2 has specific reslstance p. A cell of emf B is connected across the two lateral faces (inner and outer) of the conductor. Find the current drawn from the cell. .

/ (.,' R = p-)


1= 27tls


Variation of resistivity with temperature

Resistivity p of a conductor is independent of its shape and size. Instead, it depends on temperature. As temperature increases. p increases in case of Ohmic conductors.

At any temperature t, p is given by the following expression.

p(t) = Po (1 + ex. AT), where Po = resistivity at DOC, and ex. == temperature coefficient of resistivity .

. Also, ex. = (p - Po) or ex. =.!_ dp.

. PolH p dT

Specific resistance of the material.of a wire using a meter bridge

A known length (L) of a wire is connected in one of the gaps (P) of a metre bridge, while a 'resistance' box'is inserted into the other gap (0). The circuit is completed by using a battery (B), a rheostat (Rh), a key (K) and a galvanometer ,G).

The balancinQ! length (.e) is found by ch:lsing key K and momentarily connecting)he galvanomet~r until it gives zero deflection (null point). Then,

.!: = f (using the-expression for the meter bridge at balance)

o 100 - .e , .' '. . B Rh k

(Here, P represents the resistance of the wire while 0 represents the resistance in the resistance box.

The key K is kept open when"theG\l'Cuit is not in use.] .

. '. 2

The, resistance of the wire, P = p 7t~ or p == 7t~ P


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Physics 15

CRP-78-Current Electricity

where r is radius of the wire and L is length ofthe wire (r is measured using a screw gauge whil-e Lis measured with a scale.)


The major systematic errors in this experiment are due to the heating effect, end corrections introduced due to shift of the zero of the scale at A and 8, and stray resistances in P and Q, and errors due to non-uniformity of the meter bridge wire.

Exercise 4

Error analysis:

End corrections can be estimated by including known resistances P1 and Q1 in the two ends and finding the null point:

_!}_ = £1 + ex.

01 100-e1+~

When the resistance 01 is placed in the left gap and P1 in the right gap,

01 £2 + ex.


P1 1 00 - .e 2 + ~

(where ex. and ~ are the end corrections.)

which give two linear equation for finding ex. and ~.

In order that ex. and j3 be measured accurately, P1 and 01 should be as different from each other as possible.

~= e+ex. _£1

o 100-.e+~ - £2 '

Errors due to non-uniformity of the meter bridge wire canoe minimised by interchanging the resistances in the gaps P and Q.

8P 18e' 11°e' I .

.. -;;;;: _1 + _2 , where of; and 8e'2 are of the order of the least count of the scale.

P e; £2 ..

The error is, therefore, minimum iff;= £2' l.e, when the balance point is in the middle of the bridge.

. ,op 28r 8L '8P

The error m p 15.- =-+-+-

P r L P

For the actual balance paint,

Measurement of an unknown resistance using a Post Office Box

A Post Office Box can also be used to measure an unknown resistance. It is a Wheatstone Bridge with three arms P, 0 and R;

while the fourth arm(s) is the unknown resistance. P and Q are known as the ratio arms while R is known as the rheostat arm. At balance, the unknown resistance

S=(~)R ... (1)

The ratio arms are first adjusted so that they carry 100 Q each. The resistance in the rheostat arm is now adjusted so that the galvanometer deflection is in one direction. If R = Ro (ohm) and R = Ra + 1 (ohm) are the resistance in rheostat arm, for which the deflection in galvanometer is in opposite direction, then it implies that the unknown resistance's' lies between Ra & (Ra + 1) ohm,

Now, the resistances in P and 0 are made 100 Q and 10000, respectively, and the process is repeated,


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CRP-78-Current Electricity

Physics 16

Equation (1) is used to compute S. The ratio P/Q is progressively made 1: 1 0, and then 1:100. Thus, the resistance S can be accurately measured.


The major sources of error are the connecting wires, unclear resistance plugs, change in resistance due to Joule heating, and the insensitivity of the Wheatstone bridge.

These errors may be removed by using thick connecting wires, clean plugs, keeping the circuit on for very , brief periods (to avoid Joule heating) and calculating the sensitivity,

In order that the sensitivity is maximum, the resistance in the arm P is kept close to the value of the resistance S.

Resistance of a conductor is 1.72 Q at a temperature of 20oe. Find the resistance at ooe and ,100oe. Given the coefficient of resistivity is a. = O.00393/oC.

Solution: R = Ro (1 + a. /j. T)

R = 1.72 Q (1+ 0.00393) x (O°C - 20°C) =1.58 Q At-T = 100°C

R = 1,72 Q [1 + O.00393)x(100°C - 20°C)] = 2.26 Q


Junction rule

It is based on the law of conservation of charge. At a junction in a circuit the total incoming current is equal to the total outgoing current. In other words, the algebraic sum of the currents at a junction is zero. A junction in a circuit is neither a sink nor a source of charge. -

Loop rule

It is based on the law of conservation of energy. The algebraic sum of the potential drop around any closed path is zero.

a In case of a resistor of resistance 'R', the potential will A I B

decrease in the direction of current. Hence, for the .snown

conductor potential drop across a resistance is JR or VB - VA ;:: R


o For an emf source, the potential changes will be obtained as illustrated below:

Emf;:: s, internal resistance = r


--< ......... -------1 ~ ~ •

Emf;= s, internal resistance = r

A 81' i B

------f. II- •

VB - VA = - e - ir

VB - VA = {; - ir

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Physics 17

CRP-78-Current Electricity

What is the potential difference between the points M and N for the circuits shown in the figures, for case I and case II?



Case I

Solution: Case I:

I = E1 ~ E2 = 12 - 6 = 1.2 A

rz +r1 3+2

For cell E1: VA - E1 + Ir1 = VB i .e. VA - VB :;; E1 - Ir1

= 12 -.1.2 x 3 = 8.4 V For cell E2, Vc - Ez - Ir2 :;; Vo

i.e. vc - Vo = 6 + 1.2 x 2 = 8.4 V

Hence, Vc - Vo = VA - VB = VM - VN = 8.4 V

Case II:

1= E1 +E2 r1 + r2

= 12+6=3.6A 3+2

ForceU E1:

VA - E1 + Ir, :;; VB,

l.e. VA - VB = E, - Ir, :;; 12 - 3.6 x 3 = 1.2 V

ForceU E2:

VO + E2 - Ir2 :;; vo

i.e. vc - VD :;; -E2 + Ir2 ::: -6 + 3.6 x 2 = 1.2 V Hence, VA - VB = ve - Vo= VM - VN :;; 1.2 V

Grouping of Resistances Resistance in series





Case II


Case I




Let the equivalent resistance between A and B equals Req By A

d ef nition, ' r---VVvv.rv--V\I'IoIV'II'V--..N'VVI.t'Ir-,


Req =- .. (1) I


Using Kirchhoff's 2nd rule for the loop shown in figure,

V = IR,+ IR2 + IR3 \ .. (2)

From (1) and (2), Req = R, + R2 + ~3



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CRP-78-Current Electricity

Physics 18

Resistances in parallel V

Here again, Req "r

I . . . V V V

= 11 + 12 + 13= -+-+-

R1 R2 R3

... (1)


... (2)



From (1) and (2)

1 1 1 . 1


Req R1 R2 R3


In the adjacent circuit, find the effective resistance between the polnts A and B.


A 30

Solution: Resistors AF and FE are in series with each other. Therefore, network AEF reduces to a parallel combination of two resistors of 6 0 each.

R = 6x6 = 3 n. eq 6+6

Similarly. the resistance between A and D is given by 6 x 6 = 3 o. 6+6

Now, resistor AC is in parallel with the series combination of AD and DC. Therefore, the

resistance between A and C is 6x6 = 3 n, Now, the combination of (AC + CB) is in parallel

. 6+6 . .

to AB. Therefore, since AC and CB are in series, their combined resistance = 3 + 3 = 6 o.

Resistance between A and B is given by. _!_;;..!.+.:!_ = ~ or RAB = 20.

R 6 3 6


When a constant current I flows for time t from a source of emf E, then the amount of charge that flows in time tis Q = It.

Electrical energy delivered. W = QV = Vlt

Thus, Power given to the circuit = Wit = VI or V2/R or 12R In the circuit,

E I = 12R + 12 r,

where EI is the rate at which chemical energy is converted to electrical energy, 12R is power supplied to the externai

resistance Rand 12r is the power dissipated in the internal resistance of the battery.

An electrical current flowing through conductor produces heat in it. This is known as Joule's effect. The heat developed in Joules is given by H = ,2Rt. where I = current in Ampere and R = resistance in ohms, t = time in seconds.

r---+11 1 E r 1

I II-' I


Exercise 6

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Physics 19

CRP-78-Current Electricity

__ ~=~~""'''''''''''''''''''_'_~''i¥_N~_.'''''''''''',"''''''~''_''''''''~'''''''''.;t .. "" .... _.~",",~-..-.n'"""".T..N\N'.NV" •• JY'''o/'.N''~_'__''~~~

I An electric bulb rated 220 V and 60 W is connected in series with another electric bulb rated i 220V and 40 W. The combination is connected across a 220 volt source of emf. Which bulb i will glow brighter?


V2 R=-


. . Resistance of first bulb is R1 = V2 , P1

. . 2

and resistance of the second bulb is R2 = y_ P . 2

In series, same current will pass through each bulb,

:. Power developed across first bulb is P'; = ,2 V2 , P1

. , v2 p' p' and power developed across second bulb isP:i = f _ ==> __l_ =...1..

P2 Pi P1


As P2 < P1 ==> ~ < 1 P1

P{ 1 p' .

=> - < => 1 <P2


The bulb ratedzzo V & 40 W will glow brighter.

Maximum power transfer theorem

In a circuit, for what value of the external resistance would the maximum power be drawn from a battery?

For the shown network, power developed in resistance R equals

P = E2.R


(.: I =~ and P = 12R) R+r

Now, dP/dR = 0 (for P to be maximum dP:::: 0 ) dR

R E2. (R H)2 - 2(R)(R +r) = 0 (R+r)4

==> (R +r) = 2R

or R = r

==> The power output is maximum when the external resistance equals the internal resistance, i.e. R = r.

Exercise 7

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CRP-78..:.Current Electricity

Physics 110

A copper wire having a cross-seetional area of 0.5 mm2 and a length of 0.1 m is initially at 25°C and is thennally insulated from the surroundings. If a current of 10 A is set up in this wire,

(a) find the time in which the wire starts melting. [The change of resistance of the wire with temperature may be neglected.]

(b) What will this time be, if the length of the wire is doubled?

[Density of Cu = 9 x 103 kg m-3, specific heat of Cu = 9 X 1.0-2 cal kg-1 °C~1. M.P. (Cu) = 1075 °c and specific resistance = 1.6 x 10-8nm.

Solution: (a) Mas s of Cu = Volume x density = 0.5 x 1 0-6xO.1 x9x1 03:::: 45x1 0-5 kg ..

Rise in temperature = e = 1075 - 25 = 1050 °c. Specific heat = 9 x 10-2 kg-1 DC x 4.2 J

:::;. 12Rt = mse :::;. t=mSe/12·R

But R=pL= 1.6x10-8xO.1=3.2x10-3n

A 0.5x10-6

5 .

t = 45x4.2x10'" x1050xO.09 == 0.558s


(b) When the length of wire is doubled, R is doubled, but correspondingly mass is also doubled. Therefore, the wire will start melting in the same time.


For a certain adjustment of Q, VB[) =. 0, therefore no current flows through the galvanometer.

:::;. VB = Vo qrVAB= VAD :::;.11·P = 12·R Likewise, Vsc = VDc ~ 11·Q ::: 12'S

Dividing (1) by (2), we get, p = R



What's the effective resistance of the circuits shown in the adjacent figure?


Solution: (a) It is a Wheatstone bridge that is balanced. Hence, the central resistance labelled 'C' can be assumed as ineffective. ~ Req = R.

(b) The resistance R is in parallel with a balanced Wheatstone bridge.

~ R =R.R=R

eq R+R 2


E.m.f. of the cell is 6 and internal resistance is r. Applying Kirchhoff's Law

6 - ir + 6 - ir +_ ••• (to n times) - iR = 0

. ns 6

~ I = _-::: ...,---,---

R+nr (R/n)+r


Equivalent circuit

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Physics 111

CRP-78-Current Electricity

In a series grouping of N cells, current in the external circuit is I. The polarity of how many cells should be reversed so that the current becomes (1 (3)rd of the earlier value?

Solution: Before reversing the polarity of the cells, the current is I=~


- Let n cells be reversed in their polarity,

:. Net emf = (N - n)E - nE = (N -2n) E Total resistance Nr + R

" (N-2n) E

::::;. I =


I' _(N-2n) E/(R+Nr) N-2n N

But - - = -- ::::;. n =-

, I (NE/Nr+R) N 3 '

This is valid only when N is a multiple of 3, otherwise it cannot be done,

Parallel grouping

Let there be n identical rows each containing a cell of emf E and a resistance r arranged as shown in the figure.-

Applying Kirchhoff's law

I E---f-IR=O n





Equivalent Circuit

o To get maximum current, cells must be connected in series if effective internal resistance is less than external resistance, and in parallel if effective internal resistance is greater than external. resistance.

Mixed _ grouping

Let emf of each eel! is E and internal resistance is r,

Number of rows is m and number of cells in each row is n

Applying Kirchhoff's law,


ns - n -r -IR == 0 m

=> 1= mnE mR+nr


Effective grouping of cells



Equivalent Circuit

For effective grouping current should be maximum, Therefore, (mR + nr) should be minimum.-

Now, mR + nr = (-Jin"Rf + ("'riff = (-JiTi'R - lrlrf + 2,JmnrR

The second term is non-zero, the term in the parenthesis (.JmR - lrlr) 2= 0 n

::::;. mR = nr::::;. R = -r


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CRP-78-Current Electricity

Physics I 12:



1 There are 27 cells with an internal resistance 0.4 n and an external resistance 1.2 n. What is

the most effective way of grouping them?

Solution: Let there be n cells in series having rn parallel branches

mn =27 (1)

mR= nr (2)

1.2 m = n (0.4)

=> 3m = n ... (3)

From equation (1) and (3) , we get m =.'3 and n = 9

RC - Circuit


Let us assume that the capacitor in the shown network is uncharged for t < O. The switch is connected to position 1 at t = O. Now, 'C' is getting charged.

If the charge on capacitor at time 't' is q, writing the loop rule, 1 S R

q. dq q

-+IR-E=O => R-=E--

C ~ C

. dq "1 JO
=> RC-· =EC-q
.~=_1_dt ..
=> I
EC-q RC q dq 1 A'-t.. 1

Integrating, f-- = -J dt => -Jn I EC-q I~= -. -t

oEC-q RCo RC

=> InIE~~ql= ;~

=> q = EC[1 - e-VRCj

=> At t= 0, q = a and at t = 00, q = E C (the maximum charge.)

Thus, q 'L_

q = qmax [1- e-tlRC ] q""", = EC -~wr-------------lmo = ElR

i = dq =; qmax e-tlRC = ~ e-tiRC I 0.37 ~ .. ··1

~ ~ R 7 ~ t

.. -tIRC h . E

1= 'maxe , were Imax = R

Time constant ("C)

It is the time during which the charging would have been completed, had the growth rate been as it beg an initially. Numerically, it is equal to RC.


Consider the same arrangement as we had in the previous case with one difference that the capacitor has charge qo for t<o and the switch is connected to position 2 at t = O. If the charge on the capacitor is q at any later moment t, then the loop equation is given as

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Physics 113

CRP-78-Current Electricity

q/C+IR=O Rdq == -q

dt C

dq =2dt q RC

Integrating with t = 0, q = qo and t = t, q = q

r dq == __ 1 I'dt =>

qo q RC 0

Inl__9_1 == __ t

qo RC


q = qo • e-I/Re

'. qo -tiRe -EC -tiRe

1== --e == --e


. . -tiRe

1 == -Ioe

'-ve' sian indicates that the discharging current flows in a direction opposite to the charging current.


-i""",'= "/R


It is used to detect very small current. It has negligible resistance.


It is an instrument used to measure currents. It is put in series with the branch in which current is to be . measured. An ideal ammeter has zero resistance. A galvanometer with resistance G and current rating ig can be converted into an ammeter of rating I by connecting a suitable resistance S in parallel to it.

. / ...... ---.- ... -.-.-~.' ....• ,

Thus, SO - ig) = igG G )- ...... ---r'-,.....-

I I ig \. I

or S = igG I \

. O~ ,/1

1-; 's \'(~'_"'_-I

"" ,...../

-.. ,._._-_ ...


Exercise 8

A galvanometer havlnqa coil resistance of 100 n gives a full scale deflection when a current of 1 rnA is passed through it. the value of the resistance which can convert this galvanometer into an ammeter giving full scale deflection for a current of 10 A?


s "" ig .G == (10-3 A) (1000) == _EJ_

i-ig (10-10.,.3)A 9.99

S = 1/99.99D "'" 1 0-2 n


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CRP-78-Current Electricity

Physics 114


It is an instrument to find the potential difference across two points in a circuit. .

It is essential that the resistance Rv of a voltmeter be very large compared to the resistance of any circuit element with which the voltmeter is connected. Otherwise, the metre itself becomes an important circuit element and alters the potential difference that is measured.

Rv » R

For an ideal voltmeter, Rv = co.


ig(G + R) = V => R = - - G


.................... _ .

~ ~

.... . ..

.... . .

........ tg •••••

.. ••• 0lil •• "4 _ .. lI "' .. "' "' 110.

A galvanometer having a coil resistance 100 n gives a full scale deflection when a current of 1 rnA is passed through it. What is the value of the resistance which can convert this galvanometer into a meter giving full scale deflection for a potential difference of 10 V?

Solution: V = Ig [G +Rc]

10 = (10-3) (100 + Ry)

=> Ry = C ~~3 J -100 = 9,9000 = 9.9 kn

Verification of Ohm's law using voltmeter and ammeter

A voltmeter M and an ammeter (A) are connected in a circu it along with a resistance R in the figure, with a battery B and a rheostat, Rh Simultaneous readings of the current i and the potential drop V are taken by changing the resistance in the rheostat (Rh). A graph of V versus i is plotted and it is found to be linear (within errors). The magnitude of R is determined by either (a) taking the ratio VIi or (b) fitting to a straight line: V = iR, and determlnlnq the slope R.



Systematic errors in this experiment arise from the current flowing through V (finite resistance of the voltmeter), the Joule heating effect in the circuit and the resistance of the connecting wiresl connections of the resistance. The effect of Joule heating may be minimised by switching on the circuit for a short while only, while the effect of finite resistance of the voltmeter can be overcome by using a high resistance Jnstrument or a potentiometer. The lengths of connecting wires should be min imised as much as possible.

Error analysis

The error in computing the ratio R = VIi is given by

where 8V and ;Si are of the order of tile least counts of the instruments used.

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Physics 115

CRP-78-Current Electricity

Exercise 9


Potentiometer is an instrument that can measure the terminal potential difference with high accuracy without drawing any current from the unknown source.

It is based on the principle that if constant current is passed through a wire of uniform cross-section, then ;~~,cntial difference across any segment of the wire is proportional to its length.

The diagram given below shows a typical arrangement to measure emf Ex of a battery. The wire ab is of uniform cross-section and carries a constant current supplied by battery S. First, the switch K1 is closed and K2 is kept open. The slider is moved on the wire ab till we get zero deflection in the

galvanometer. If C1 is the corresponding point in the wire, then Ex =

Va~1 Now, the experiment is repeated with key K1 open and K2 closed. This time, if the null deflection is obtained with contact on wire at C2.

Eo = Vac2 (Eo is known) . a tt--_,:;.-~.:....--¥l....--"'"


V l

Ex aC1 . aC1


Eo v.; Rac2

where Rac1 and fac2 are the lengths of segments aC1 andac, respectively.

Exercise 10

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Physics 116

, :' -':, ," 'c", -, " . - ANSWERS,TO EXERCrSE

Exercise 1:

Exercise 2:

Exercise 3:

Exercise 4:

Exercise 5:

Exercise 6:

The bulb glows instantaneously, as electric field is established in the circuit causing at every point a local electron drift whereas the electron from the source reaches the bulb with drift speed.

f.' b t

R1 = p bt ' R2 = P et' R3 "" p eb

=> R3 < R2 < R1

As R ocp and p o; 1. Due to increase in temperature the vibration of ions increases results time of relaxation ('t) decreases p = ~

e n-r

There will be no change in its resistivity,


R = (220)2 and Rb = {220f

a 100 0

:. Rb> Ra

Exercise 7: In parallel.

Exercise 8: As ammeter measures current in a branch and voltmeter measures potential difference between two points.

E.xercise 9: R = 20 n, error = 0

Exercise 10: A potentiometer is said to be sensitive if potential gradient is small,

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