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In a circuit, you have two opposite charges. One would be negative, which would consist of electrons. The other would be positive charge, and protons carry this. But protons aren't mobile, so how does this work?

This might be tagged as a duplicate, as it is similar to a question posted here, but that post didn't have a very clear answer.

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    $\begingroup$ The "positive" charges are really ions that are missing their outer electron(s) so the atom has a net positive charge or lack of electrons to balance out the charge. $\endgroup$ – user6972 Jan 14 '14 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ I don't really get your question. Are you sure you're not mistaking potential difference for flow of protons? $\endgroup$ – shortstheory Jan 14 '14 at 3:29
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If we have a neutral atom with no net charge and remove an electron, the result is that the remaining atom has a net positive charge. The same thing happens in circuits; in semiconductor physics for example, we refer to electrons and "holes" which are, as you might guess, places in a crystalline lattice where electrons are no longer bound.

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Analogy time!

Let's pretend you, user37340, I, Turtleweezard, and four of our friends are going to play a game. We all sit on the floor in a line, with me at one end and you at the other. Now, everyone except you is given a ball. The only goal of this game is to have one ball. I, being the instigator that I am, decide to shove the person to my left. This starts a chain reaction - everyone jostles the person to their left, and eventually the person directly before you jostles you. You use this chance to grab their ball. This starts another reaction - the person to your right now has no ball, so they reach over to their right and steal that neighbor's ball. (they can't take it from you, no take-backs.) This keeps happening until I'm the only one without a ball.You could say the no-ball person is moving. But in reality, no people are moving at all; we're all sitting on the floor in the same order. The balls are moving, and therefore the lack of a ball is moving also, in the opposite direction.

Now replace the people in this situation with positive ions and make the balls electrons. Even though electrons are what actually move when a current flows, we could also track the 'gaps' - the lone positive ions without electrons.

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Electric current in metals is a flow of electrons. Not true in general though. For example, inside your body (and in salt water, battery acid, etc.,) an electric current is a flow of charged atoms; of positive ions and negative ions going past each other in opposite directions.

But in wires, the metal is like a solid grid of protons which is soaked by an "electric fluid" made of movable electrons. Overall it's neutral, with every electron having a proton nearby. Yet we can connect a metal rod into a circle, to form a ring. Now we have a ring-shaped tank of movable electron-stuff. Keep the ring still, make the "liquid" move along, and we've got a sort of drive belt.

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