Assume I put some electronic device, a laptop for example, in free space. Now add electrons to the object. It will become progressively more negatively charged. At what point will the laptop (or whatever) stop working, and what will be the failure mode?

When modeling electronic circuits using Ohm's law, capacitors, MOSFETs etc., the non-relative potentials are rarely considered significant, everything is calculated relative to some arbitrarily chosen potential. However, I assume this is a simplifying approximation/abstraction. At what point does this abstraction break down, and why?

I understand that if the laptop is nearby some earthed object, there'll be capacitive coupling and thus a mode of interference, but my question is about free space where there are no other objects near by.

Edit: The laptop has non-infinite resistance between all components and the electrons are added slowly.


1 Answer 1


Assume that the free space is vacuum and the battery is perfectly insulated as well as all the electrical contacts.
In this case there are two possibilities for an electronic device to fail:
1. The induced emf in the inductive elements of electronics device because of the changing electrical field caused by the addition of electrons.
2. Most of the electronics circuits works on switching signals which are usually few volts. Hence the potential build upon the device will interrupts the switching signals finally destroying some of its components.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer! However, I was thinking that the whole laptop/circuit would be charged up slowly, not that only the case would be charged until arcing to internal components occur. And I'm thinking that electrons are added slowly, so very small emf will occur. $\endgroup$
    – avl_sweden
    Aug 7, 2015 at 5:07

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