Backstory: I’m a software engineer just getting into electronics and it seems that everything I’ve ever been told about electricity my whole life is a candy-coated lie. I can’t find consistent logical answers to the most basic of questions and it’s driving me mad!
I’m old enough now. I just want to know the truth, even if it hurts.
This is a follow-up to How does resistance *really* work? (DC, battery, LED, atoms, electrons)
A volt is electric potential energy per unit charge
J = CV
V = J/C
Thus “volt” is NOT a unit of charge, as we’ve been told in school - because that’s what a Coulomb is.
However, how does one store a Joule in a Coulomb? My best guess is that it has something to do with the energy levels of the electrons in the atom.
If it’s merely a product of the charge creating an electric field, that makes sense too... it just seems a little tautological - which is maybe okay.
All of this is assuming that the math is correct and not just another candy-coated fairy tale.
The effect of charge on voltage
Here’s a hypothesis I have. Please tear it apart.
- A balloon and I are perfectly zero charge.
- The balloon is an insulator.
- My hair is an insulator.
- My body is “ground” (endless electron supply)
- I rub my head on a balloon.
- The rubbing causes the atoms to energize.
- The energy causes some electrons to “level up” to the next shell.
Does this energy alone create voltage?
(I’m assuming there’s no charge yet because no hypothetical electrons have left their own atoms)
- The most excited electrons “jump ship”.
Are they going to the balloon or to my hair?
I’m assuming they must be drawing from my body and going to the balloon,
The balloon is now “positively” charged (Ben Franklin style) with excess negative electrons (real physics style)
The balloon repels the electrons in my hair, which escape to my body (with great difficulty), during the high-energy rubbing.
My hair is now “negatively” charged (with all those positive holes).
Without the excess energy, the excess electrons (that left to my body) can’t flow back through my hair.
My hair is charged and has -2500 volts between it and neutral things.
The balloon is charged and has +2500 volts between it and neutral things.
There’s now +5000 volts between the balloon and my hair (or -5000 between my hair and the balloon).
Attraction happens and, because the very small amount of current can’t flow, I hear a lightning crack between the balloon and my hair, restoring the balance of the force in true arcing Jedi fashion.
This seems to make sense... but is it true? What's really happening?