Sign up ×
Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free.

Proton cuircuits and proton motive force are part of standard discussion in biology and processes involving photosynthesis. The sort of proton currents discussed in biology are obviously slightly different than the magnetically confined proton currents in an acclerator like LHC, however, although we are very familar with electronic circuitry, I was wondering if there are example of protonic circuitry outside of biological processess.

share|cite|improve this question
I am confused since I have been an amateur in the study of electronics for most of my life and have always been taught that protons and neutrons are with in an atom and only electrons could flow. Also i was taught that protons do not exist alone unless the atom was split which would start a nuclear reaction. this is new to me where can i learn more about the existence of protons naturally occurring alone and how a circuit would conduct protons – Chris Sep 21 '11 at 4:43
This is a question, really. Ions can flow too, in liquid and gases ( thunderstorms), as the answer above says. Pure proton currents exist in accelerators, where hydrogen is stripped from its electron and the protons are accelerated into circular paths – anna v Sep 21 '11 at 7:01
@Chris This is a Q&A not a forum. Please don't use it this way. – mbq Sep 21 '11 at 7:42
""Also i was taught that protons do not exist alone unless the atom was split which would start a nuclear reaction"" Ever heard about the core of hydrogen atoms? – Georg Sep 21 '11 at 11:31
Google: Lead-Acid Batteries. – Dale Dec 17 '12 at 0:39

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Current in any acid electrolyte (eg a lead accumulator) is carried predominantely by hydronium ions (real protons do not exist in water). Due to the about tenfold mobility of hydronium ions compared to all other cations, in acid solution charge transport is almost by hydronium alone.


share|cite|improve this answer
+1 Yeah, it is just that biologists call H$^{+}$ ions "protons". – mbq Jan 25 '11 at 8:57
Chemists do that too, it is lab-slang, for the sake of brevity. But here in some "educational" place it should not be used. – Georg Jan 25 '11 at 12:24
Maybe I'm just being more than usually thickheaded, but are you really objecting to calling ${\rm H}^+$ ions "protons"? That's precisely what they are! – Ted Bunn Jan 25 '11 at 15:16
First error is H+ ! Those ions formula is H3O+, secondly their name is hydronium! A naked proton is much too electrophilic to stay "free" in water. Or more precisely, the binding to that hydronium is basic reason for the existence of aqueous acids. Without it, no such thing would exist in chemistry. Again we are at hydrogen bonds and water structure :=( – Georg Jan 25 '11 at 15:32
Thanks for the explanation. Of course I certainly agree that ${\rm H_3O^+}$ is different from a proton! I was confused by @mbq's comment and @Georg's reply that seemed to say that we shouldn't call an ${\rm H^+}$ a proton. If the objection is that the objects in question aren't ${\rm H}^+$s (rather than that ${\rm H}^+$s aren't protons), I understand. – Ted Bunn Jan 25 '11 at 16:44

One cannot use the example of lightning since that has nothing to do with proton current. The way lighting works is when to clouds cross each other and "rub" against each other one cloud removes a lot of electrons from the other. One cloud will have extra electrons and one cloud have missing electrons.The one missing the electrons will have a positive charge and the one that gains electrons will have a negative charge. If this process is significantly high it creates high static charges Charges that are significantly high to create a potential (voltage) of say a million volts will cause electrons to flow through air. Also though air is considered an insulator all insulators have a resistant value in OHMS like in the area of mega ohms Using ohms law E over I times R E=volts I =current (electron flow rate) R= resistance in ohms A sufficient voltage will cause current to flow through the airs high resistance and create a large arc to ground or from cloud to cloud. This we see as lightening.

share|cite|improve this answer
Your picture of clouds rubbing each other is, ahem, funny. ""of say a million volts will cause electrons to flow through air."" is really wrong. I recommend You read about basics of discharge in gases. And: if some "body" lacks electrons" that can mean that the positive charge is a proton! (can!) – Georg Sep 23 '11 at 9:12
It is not like that as @Chris saying. – Curious Nov 11 '12 at 9:14

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.