Amazing Kids! Magazine

Electrical Charge

By Sahil Nadkarni, age 12, Texas


Electrical Charge, the foundation of electricity

Electricity powers most of the technology in the world. It becomes motion in motors and light in lamps. Electricity is created in huge generators in power plants. If you zoom in, then you will see the tiniest flicker of power. But electricity is everywhere, even without generators. It also exists at the particle level, the cellular level, the atomic level, and the subatomic level. It is part of physics too. This is called an electrical charge. Simple atoms create the foundation of the humongous current flow in the entire world.

Atomic Parts

Atoms are extremely tiny. They have 3 basic parts: neutrons, protons, and electrons. The electrons face different types of quantum forces (science of minute forces) so they orbit around the protons and neutrons. The protons and electrons are the parts that mostly make the electrical charge.

Charge and the Unit to Measure It

A particle always repels from its own type and attracts to the other type. Charge is the main property of any kind of matter that faces repulsion, static or any magnetism. This includes all of the matter in the world because they have atoms in them. Charge rules over other magnetism properties. It is the main king. It forms electricity. So each proton and electron has charge. They have their own kind of charge. Charge is closely studied in quantum physics. To explain the charges, electron charge is thought to be negative and proton is positive. Charges of particles make them attract or repel. But an atom itself also has a charge. If there are more protons in atoms, then they will have a positive charge. If there are more electrons than protons, the atom will be charged negatively.

Attraction and repulsion

The charge being carried by an electron is called elementary charge. The 2 types of charges (+ and -) are slightly different and both charges can sometimes attract. This can be the foundation of static. When charges with the same sign pass by each other, the field around them pushes each other away and repels. The attraction between electrons, protons, and quantum gravity mixed together might be the reason why electrons orbit the nucleus. Sometimes an electron and a proton can attract too much and create a high electrical charge causing the electron to break away from the atom. It will carry its negative charge with it. Millions of electrons like this make current inside circuits. This attraction and repulsion happens every day.

Charge is cool but it has to be measured. The unit to measure charge is coulomb. 1 coulomb is a lot of electrical charge. Coulomb measures charge in an object which is basically charged particles in an object. In circuits, a coulomb is the electrical charge given by 1 ampere in 1 second. Coulomb is an easy way to measure charge in many things, especially circuits.

Electrification and Static

An electrical charge can create something called static electricity and it can also create electrification. Both are different but they can occur in the same item. Electrification can be created by friction (rubbing things). If 2 tiny pieces of glass are rubbed, then they might have the same charged particles and would repel. Or if you rub paper with paperclips, they might have opposite charges and attract. This repulsion and attraction happens because the items are thought to be electrically charged. They either have more negative charged atoms or more positive charged atoms. When an item is charged by something else than it, then it is called electrification. Items have to be electrified to repel or attract. Electrification is also called Coulomb’s Law.

Negative Charge Going to Ground

Electrification experiments have been performed with extremely high and strong voltages (unit for power of electricity). At a strong voltage, large objects have moved really fast. Electrification was studied by many scientists in the past. Scientists used this to create and invent electricity. Static is similar but with small things. Lightning is created by electrification. Usually the ground has quadrillions of protons and during storms, clouds can have too many electrons. So the sky attracts to the ground. The amount of charge is so massive that currents form! The current attracts to the ground forming lightning. This can happen in power sources and is called a short circuit when a charge attracts directly.

Electronic Physics and Chemistry

Different atoms can form matter in physics and chemistry. In electronics, oppositely charged atomic particles can attract and form something. Properties can change. This is used in batteries to form power. Electrochemical cells create chemical reactions.

History of the Discovery of Electrical Charge

Electrical charge questions and discovery go a long way. The ancient Greeks wrote about sticking materials together around 600 BCE. They wrote about what became friction. Greeks made objects out of amber and fur which, when rubbed hard, got a tiny electrical spark. That was the first discovery of the electrical charge. Later in 1600, scientist William Gilbert thought hard about how things can automatically move and thought that maybe they had something inside that made them move. He made a subject called De magnet which does not exist today. He named this attraction and repelling electricus. English scientists changed the name to electrical and electricity. People still had no idea what it was. Robert Boyle in 1675 said that it might act as a vacuum. Stephen Gray in 1725 discovered that some things have sparks and heat better than others. He made a big chart of objects and determined whether they had electricity or not. He discovered conductors and insulators but he did not think that electricity could hurt you. A man named C.F. Fay noticed that there are different kinds of electrical charges. He knew that charges come in 2 varieties and they can both cancel each other out. Later when atoms were discovered, scientists started to think more about electrical charge. One of America’s founding fathers, Ben Franklin, discovered a lot of things, including electricity around 1800. He took Fay’s thinking and discovered that each item has a charge, positive and negative. They can attract or repel. He also discovered some other electrical things.

Later scientists invented many items. Different people invented different electricity using objects. The 1800’s was the century in which electronics were born. At the end of the 1800’s electrons and protons were also discovered so that explained charge better. Then Charles Augustin De-Coulomb discovered a lot about electromagnetism. He created the Coulomb.


Electrical charge is the building block of all electricity. Particles can attract or repel. It makes the world alive. A simple charge is made out of electrons and protons. The 2 types of charges make electricity. Lightning is formed by electrical charges. Power sources require electrical charges. A coulomb is a unit of measurement to measure the amount of charge. Voltage and amps start with coulomb. Atoms will always be around and also the electrical charge.