I recently answered this:

Q When a battery, by performing work on a charge, moves it to the higher potential, why doesn't the charge move through the battery and return to the low potential, why does it go through the circuit?

A: Simply, because the battery exerts a non-electrostatic force (due to internal chemical reactions) that force the electrons to move the opposite direction. Remember the battery does some work in doing what is not favorable therefore the energy in battery is drained after sometime.

Am I correct? Seems like some people disagree.

  • $\begingroup$ The work done by the battery is "favorable" for the battery. Like every other physical system it tries to minimize its energy density, i.e. it "likes" to be discharged. That a battery can not conduct an electron trough its electrolyte is a necessary condition for it to be a battery. If the electrons could be conducted trough the electrolyte, the battery would quickly self-discharge. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Dec 28 '14 at 7:36
  • $\begingroup$ @CuriousOne i meant not favourable for electron $\endgroup$ – RE60K Dec 28 '14 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ The electron doesn't care any more or less than the battery or the entire universe. The system simply behaves in such a way as to minimize the energy. Every system does that. So if there is a wire for the electron to flow trough, the electron will flow trough the wire. Strictly speaking it's not even the electrons that transfer the energy, but the electromagnetic field, but that's a rather advanced way of looking at it. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Dec 28 '14 at 7:42
  • $\begingroup$ @CuriousOne electrons generally moves from low potential to high potential ($-eV_1<-eV_2$ if $V_1>V_2$) but in the battery this is the other way out, the reverse because battery exerts some non-electrostatic force; BTW thanks for this discussion $\endgroup$ – RE60K Dec 28 '14 at 7:44
  • $\begingroup$ Electrons don't move in the battery, at all. Ions do. Like I said, if electrons could move in the battery by themselves, the battery would short itself out. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Dec 28 '14 at 7:56

Yes, you are right. Ideally, since the ends of a battery are oppositely charged like the plates of a capacitor, they can move through the battery and make the battery fail. But the resistance of a battery is much higher for conduction of charge via an applied potential than the circuit. So the charge instead moves through the circuit.

  • $\begingroup$ "make the battery fail" how? $\endgroup$ – RE60K Dec 28 '14 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ In the sense that it would not serve it's purpose. Nothing technical. $\endgroup$ – Sidd Dec 28 '14 at 21:49

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