I have read that when a conductor is earthed, electrons from the earth travel towards the conductor (if conductor have excess positive charge) and electron are transferred to earth ( if conductor have excess negative charge ) and the potential becomes zero . My question is

Can protons also travel to create a zero potential ?

When I searched for this on Google I got that " protons cannot be transferred as they are tightly bound to the nucleus " is this the only reason ?


2 Answers 2


In a solid material the nuclei are pretty strongly bound into some sort of lattice which fixes them, while the electrons are mobile, so in this case only the electrons flow. In a hydrogen plasma there are free protons and electrons so either can flow under the influence of an electric field. But the proton is 1836 times more massive, so it still flows a lot less.

  • $\begingroup$ I am convinced with your answer . But when I was solving a question related earthing , the answer came out to be a positive charge which travelled from the conductor to earth and the answer was matching with the given solution . What should I conclude ? $\endgroup$
    – user306932
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 11:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Curiousminded: a positive charge traveling from the conductor to the Earth is entirely equivalent to a negative charge traveling from the Earth to the conductor. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Curiousminded A flow of positive change in one direction is equivalent to a flow of negative charge in the opposite direction - in the same way as subtracting $1$ from a number is equivalent to adding $-1$. .So a flow of positive charge from the conductor to earth can represent negatively charged particles (such as electrons) travelling in the opposite direction. $\endgroup$
    – gandalf61
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 11:58

You ask "can protons travel" but your title is "can positive charge flow" and the title question would accept the flow of holes in a grounded P-doped semiconductor.

Classically that's just a fancy way of describing electrons going the other way, but the hall effect acting on the flow of charge will act as though the charge carriers are positive and have positive mass.

CWPP gave a much better answer, but this is may be interesting if you have a reason to really want positive charges to flow.


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