Charge and Current

often extremely difficult. Each component and interconnection may have to be represented by a combination of elemental properties and the designer may eventually have to select for analysis one among perhaps several possible lumped models, testing each against past experience or by means of actual circuit measurement.
The lumped circuit modelling technique is directly applicable only when the dimensions of the circuit under consideration are small compared with the wavelength corresponding to the frequency of the source excitation. Circuits not falling into this category, such as high-frequency transmission lines (characterized also by a continuous distribution of elemental properties), require special methods of analysis. The lumped modelling technique provides only a starting point for the development of the theory applicable to such circuits.

Charge and current

We have stated previously that current in a conductor is equal to the rate of flow of charge. If i is the instantaneous current, and a small quantity of charge dq flows in time dt, then

The graphical interpretation of this integral is also shown in the figure. If the time interval commences at the origin, t1 =0 and t2 = t, and the above integral becomes

where te = t2 — t1 is the elapsed time.

The units of charge and current are respectively the coulomb and the ampere.

Although the concept of charge is basic to our understanding of the way in which energy flows in an electrical circuit, the ampere is chosen as the fundamental electrical unit in the SI system rather than the coulomb. The reason for this is that it is easier to detect and measure charge in motion than at rest. The former gives rise to a magnetic field which in turn can be detected by utilizing forces resulting from interaction with other magnetic fields. (See definition of the ampere, appendix A.) This is discussed more fully in reference 6.

So far we have not considered the physical nature and origin of electrical charge and indeed for the purposes of the theory contained in this book, it is unnecessary to do so. The established physical picture (according to the Rutherford-Bohr model of the atom) conceives of charge as being carried by atomic particles each bearing a discrete amount of charge. But, even in the smallest currents encountered in practice, the number of charge carriers involved in the transport process is very great and the discrete nature of the flow is not normally detectable. A concept of current as consisting of a smooth fluid-like flow is, therefore, adequate for nearly all practical purposes.

Detailed experimental observation reveals that charge carriers can possess two kinds of charge: positive and negative. Under the action of the same electric field, charges of different kind move in opposite directions. A given amount of positive charge moving along a conductor in one direction is indistinguishable, so far as any observable external effect is concerned