# Conventional vs Electron flow

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#### OBW0549

Joined Mar 2, 2015
3,566
Wouldn't it make more sense for electrons to be positive charge and be at the plus side of the battery and flow to low potential since they are actually what is carrying the charge in a wire?
It would, if for no other reason than it would put an end to stupid, inane "conventional vs. electron flow" discussions. But electrons are not positive. And there's not a damned thing you're going to do about it.

#### electricalengineer3

Joined Feb 6, 2020
172
It would, if for no other reason than it would put an end to stupid, inane "conventional vs. electron flow" discussions. But electrons are not positive. And there's not a damned thing you're going to do about it.
Okay so there's really a whole line of convention that comes from this. Since we think of the charge carriers as being positive they should be on the higher potential side because this is how they will flow? The higher potential side of voltage is based off what we think as current flow?

#### MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
28,115
If you have a battery or voltage source in a circuit you cannot assume the direction of the current using the polarity of the terminals.

Apply KVL and KCL and be consistent with your notation. Ignore convectional current flow and electron flow.
Draw current direction at each node. Apply KCL.
Apply KVL according to the rules.
The sign of the current will indicate the direction of the current.
It doesn't matter if it is conventional current or electron flow.

#### SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
4,547
The bottom line is good ole Ben Franklin got it wrong and we are still dealing with it. It took me a while to get my head around electron flow but after a while it sunk in and I actually prefer it. Now it doesn't matter, I can deal with either concept equally well. It is all a matter of perspective.

#### MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
28,115
Why is the electron negatively charged?
Why is Australia south or down under?

It doesn't matter. It is all relative.
We could just as well say electrons have #charge and protons have *charge.

#### Wolframore

Joined Jan 21, 2019
2,582
electrons have a negative charge so it's attracted to the positive charge. That's the basis for electron flow.

Conventional current was a mistake - but the math works the same... its like saying 4 quarter make up a dollar (counting up) as oppose to 1 dollar breaks down into 4 quarters (counting down)... it's the same either way... the answer is 1 dollar.

electrons and not holes make up current flow... but whether you think of current being a positive flowing to the negative or negative electrons flowing to the positive it doesn't matter (is 99.9% of cases).

It works for MOSFETs too, this is an N Channel... note that the gate arrow points to the N channel and points out for P Channel.

#### nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
10,896
So passive sign convention is based on the fact that current leaves the positive terminal of a source? With things like Ohm's law and such why do people say there would just be more negatives if we used electron flow? Wouldn't these equations still be the same just with a different sign convention?
Why muddle the mental picture with physical object movements that don't matter. The physical atomic particles with the properties of charge move extremely slowly (drift velocity) and carry no electrical energy in most DC circuits. Energy is a key point because normally when I see a person fixate on the direction it's due to a misconception about electrical energy movements somehow related to the KE of electrons in a circuit.
http://amasci.com/miscon/eleca.html#frkel
The solution isn't to ignore our discomfort and pretend that we understand electricity. The solution is to confront the source of our discomfort. If we dislike negative currents, or if we find them to be confusing or wrong, it's because our misconceptions are in there, fighting back. Loose the misconceptions, and we lose the confusion.
A non-issue. Why am I even discussing this? Does anyone really care?

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#### electricalengineer3

Joined Feb 6, 2020
172
The bottom line is good ole Ben Franklin got it wrong and we are still dealing with it. It took me a while to get my head around electron flow but after a while it sunk in and I actually prefer it. Now it doesn't matter, I can deal with either concept equally well. It is all a matter of perspective.
Yeah I am trying to get to that point where I understand both.

#### Wolframore

Joined Jan 21, 2019
2,582
Don't worry about it... just stick to one and unless you're going to be a physicist it won't matter, conventional current is widely accepted and everything has been designed around it.

#### nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
10,896
The bottom line is good ole Ben Franklin got it wrong and we are still dealing with it. It took me a while to get my head around electron flow but after a while it sunk in and I actually prefer it. Now it doesn't matter, I can deal with either concept equally well. It is all a matter of perspective.
"We have Ben Franklin to thank for rubbing our noses in this fact. If he'd chosen the polarities so electrons came out positive, we'd be much more comfortable. We might never even notice our errors."

#### electricalengineer3

Joined Feb 6, 2020
172
Why muddle the mental picture with physical object movements that don't matter. The physical atomic particles with the properties of charge move extremely slowly and carry no electrical energy in most DC circuits. Energy is a key point because normally when I see a person fixate on the direction it's due to a misconception about electrical energy movements somehow related to the KE of electrons in a circuit.
http://amasci.com/miscon/eleca.html#frkel

A non-issue. Why am I even discussing this? Does anyone really care?
How do the particles carry no energy? What is carrying it then?

#### nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
10,896
How do the particles carry no energy? What is carrying it then?
I point you back to the link:
http://amasci.com/miscon/eleca.html#poynt
ELECTRIC ENERGY TRAVELS INSIDE OF WIRES? Wrong.
When an electric company's distant generator lights up your lamps, the electric energy travels along the power lines at almost the speed of light. Most K-12 textbooks teach that the energy is trapped inside of electrons, and these electrons flow inside the wires. Doesn't this mean that electrical energy flows INSIDE the metal wires? Nope, since electrical energy is not trapped inside electrons. Instead the energy is made of invisible magnetic fields and electric fields which surround the electrons, and these fields surround the wires. Electrons don't flow fast like the energy does, instead they ooze along slowly to produce an electric current. But how can electrons flow slowly if the energy flows fast? It's because the energy can leap from electron to electron. Indeed, the energy is connected to a whole vast population of electrons in the wire, and it isn't attached to any single one.
The tiny amount of energy absorbed by your typical electrons in good circuit conductor is wasted as heat unless the circuit element is a heating component. In the heater case electrical energy is transformed into particle KE that results in thermal heating effects (Temperature) and radiation, not electrical energy transfer.

http://amasci.com/miscon/energ1.html

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#### SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
4,547
It's the age-old Wave Vs. Particle theories in physics. They both carry energy depending on how you look at it.

#### Wolframore

Joined Jan 21, 2019
2,582
Just think of the force

#### KeepItSimpleStupid

Joined Mar 4, 2014
5,088
Bottom line, I think: The instruments you use measure conventional current.

'Occaisionally' you have to ask what are the electrons doing, then you revise your thinking.

#### nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
10,896
It's the age-old Wave Vs. Particle theories in physics. They both carry energy depending on how you look at it.
Nope. This is not a quantum mechanical relationship at the circuit level. Charge particles and electrical 'waves' both can carry momentum/energy but the physical element of the charge particle momentum is mass based KE not electrical energy KE in fields.

#### nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
10,896
Bottom line, I think: The instruments you use measure conventional current.

'Occaisionally' you have to ask what are the electrons doing, then you revise your thinking.
IMO if you need to revise your thinking then you have a misconception of the science of electricity.

#### schmitt trigger

Joined Jul 12, 2010
515
One thing is for sure:
In this and most if not all the electronic forums available on the web, there will be sporadic outbreaks of "Conventional vs Electron Flow" threads.

They inevitably stray into other subjects and become the basis for endless arguments.

#### nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
10,896
One thing is for sure:
In this and most if not all the electronic forums available on the web, there will be sporadic outbreaks of "Conventional vs Electron Flow" threads.

They inevitably stray into other subjects and become the basis for endless arguments.
If the end result is enlightenment for the confused but curious OP and others it's worth the Ground-Hog Day effect.

#### crutschow

Joined Mar 14, 2008
31,501
Bottom line, I think: The instruments you use measure conventional current.
Again, it depends upon you viewpoint.
A plus current indication on an ammeter can be interpreted as electron flow from the minus to the plus meter terminals, the same as electron flow from the minus to the plus terminals of a battery.

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