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Electric Circuit

To be a true circuit, charges must continually flow through a complete loop, returning to their original position and cycling through again. If there were a means of moving positive charge from the negative plate back up onto the positive plate, then the movement of positive charge downward through the charge pipe (i.e., the wire) would occur continuously. In such a case, a circuit or loop would be established.
A common lab activity that illustrates the necessity of a complete loop utilizes a battery pack (a collection of D cells), a light bulb, and some connecting wires. The activity involves observing the affect of connecting and disconnecting a wire in a simple arrangement of the battery pack, light bulbs and wires. When all connections are made to the battery pack, the light bulb lights. In fact, the lighting of the bulb occurs immediately after the final connection is made. There is no perceivable time delay between when the last connection is made and when the light bulb is perceived to light up.
The fact that the light bulb lights and remains lit is evidence that charge is flowing through the light bulb filament and that an electric circuit has been established. A circuit is simply a closed loop through which charges can continuously move. To demonstrate that charges are not only moving through the light bulb filament but also through the wires connecting the battery pack and the light bulb, a variation on the above activity is made. A compass is placed beneath the wire at any location such that its needle is placed in alignment with the wire. Once the final connection is made to the battery pack, the light bulb lights and the compass needle deflects. The needle serves as a detector of moving charges within the wire. When it deflects, charges are moving through the wire. And if the wire is disconnected at the battery pack, the light bulb is no longer lit and the compass needle returns to its original orientation. When the light bulb lights, charge is moving through the electrochemical cells of the battery, the wires and the light bulb filaments; the compass needle detects the movement of this charge. It can be said that there is a current - a flow of charge within the circuit.
The electric circuit demonstrated by the combination of battery, light bulb and wires consists of two distinct parts: the internal circuit and the external circuit. The part of the circuit containing electrochemical cells of the battery is the internal circuit. The part of the circuit where charge is moving outside the battery pack through the wires and the light bulb is the external circuit. In Lesson 2, we will focus on the movement of charge through the external circuit. In the next part of Lesson 2 we will explore the requirements that must be met in order to have charge flowing through the external circuit.


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