Sorry if this has been asked before. Could also be a really basic question (new to electrical study).

I am a bit confused about the relationship between electrons and charges. So what I understand is this: (1) One coulomb of charge has 6.24 x 10^18 electrons and (2) an electron always carries one charge. Does that mean that ALWAYS for any given amount of electrons, there will be the same amount of charges?

I am conceptually picturing in my head an electron "soldier". It carries a "charge". A soldier can only carry one charge. 6.24 x 10^18 "soldiers" equals one coulomb which simultaneously means the same number of charges. Each soldier also carries food (stored potential energy) which is measured volts, which gets used up as the soldier goes on his/her journey.

So the question is - am I going in the right direction in terms of conceptually understanding charges, electrons and less importantly, voltage?

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    $\begingroup$ Electric charge (sign and magnitude) is a property of an electron, i.e., the charge is inseparable and unchanging (as far as we know). But electric potential energy is an altogether different notion that is more abstract and, further, can't really be localized like you're thinking. I'll think about how to answer this later. $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Oct 18 '14 at 23:05

Is it possible for electrons to carry more than one charge?

If by, one charge, you mean more electric charge than (the negative of) the elementary charge, the answer is no.

More specifically, an 'electron' would not be an electron if its charge were not $-e$.

However, electric charge is not the only type of charge electrons 'carry'. But this is a topic for another time.

Each soldier also carries food (stored potential energy) which is measured volts,

This is kind of nifty but, I'm afraid it's not productive to picture it this way.

First, potential energy isn't measured in volts - electric potential is. Potential energy is measured in Joules while the volt is Joules per Coulomb so, while related, they're not to be confused.

Second, electric potential is useful when we think about the electric field which is an entity unto itself* both classically and quantumly.

Indeed, the electromagnetic field can both store and transport energy. So, when thinking of electric potential energy and electric potential, you must consider the role of the electric field as well as electric charge.

At this early point in your study, it's important to get off on the right foot conceptually so it's good that you're asking these type of questions.

*to be precise, the electromagnetic field


Each electron has a fixed charge of $-1.602\times10^{-19}\,\mbox{C}$ (where (C stands for coulombs). If you gather $6.24\times10^{18}$ electrons, the total charge will be \begin{align*} \mbox{Total charge} &= \mbox{Charge per electron}\times\mbox{Number of electrons}\\ &= -1.602\times10^{-19}\frac{\mbox{coulombs}}{\mbox{electron}}\times6.24\times10^{18}\mbox{electrons}\\ &=-1\,\mbox{coulomb}. \end{align*} Individual electrons do not carry potential or potential energy. Potential energy is a property of the system as a whole.


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