The number of individual atoms contained in just one drop of water is estimated to be over one billion trillion. Some scientists hold that such a drop has the energy potential of continuously producing more than one hundred horsepower sustained over a period of two years. Now, whether or not you believe that, most researchers working within the disciplines would agree that we’ve barely tapped into the atom’s full potential. One thing is certain, energy at the the electronic stage is the basis for all materialization within the observable universe.
The hydrogen atom has one electron and one proton. The proton’s weight is about eighteen hundred times that of the electron. If the mass of this seemingly insignificant electron were somehow magnified to the point where it weighed one tenth of an ounce, and if its volume were also proportionately magnified, the volume would be just about equal to the that of the earth.
Electrons are always on the move. Ram too many of them through a skinny wire and you will cause it to glow while also producing heat. Array them in opposition to one another and you can levitate a freight train. A general or specialized understanding of electronics can be leveraged to do kinetic forms of work. And, their absence or presence can even be used to convey meaning.
Electrons move in circuits. When they are thus en-circuited, they behave in predictable ways. Once we understand how they behave, we can direct and even stop the flow. We can insure they only move in one direction or in more than one. We can store them and release them in accordance with our preferences. Such a release can occur slowly or all at once under conditions that can be pre-determined.
The first thing we need to know about electrons and protons is that they are attracted to one another. Every part of matter has an electric charge. The value of this charge can be positive, negative, or neutral. Electrons possess what we term a negative charge whereas protons have a positive charge. Their arrangement within Hydrogen gives its atom a neutral charge. Within the atom the negatively charged electron remains in orbit around the positively charged proton contained in the nucleus due to a law of attraction that insures such particles will usefully complement one another.
Dissimilar particles are thus seen as complimentary exhibiting mutual attraction whereas like particles are repulsed, in effect pushing against one another. This attraction or repulsion gives rise to the constant movement of the electron . Within humanly designed electronic circuitry are various components that exert some influence with respect to this movement. However, the first circuit we must consider is not man-made. It is the electron’s orbit around the nucleus of the atom.
When we visualize the atom, we see two main features; the atomic nuclei with its component parts and the electron system. The electron system, because it is characterized by the movement of electrons, is our primary area of interest in the study of electronics. Electrons move, not only along the orbital paths around the nucleus, but they can also move between orbits. When electrons change orbits, moving closer to or away from the atomic nucleus, they emit or absorb tiny but measurable amounts of energy. Such units of energy are quantified in precise amounts that are designated quanta.
Quantum exhibit a vibratory or wavelike behavior that, together with the phenomena of orbital shifting, gives rise to a field of study known as Quantum Mechanics. Although the laws of physics are unchanging, definitions within the sciences are continually evolving. The study of electronics therefore may or may not include these quantum mechanics. Traditionally, it has focused on the movement of electrons between individual atoms.
When atoms have a full complement of electrons orbiting the nucleus, they are considered neutral. When the more complex atoms become either positively or negatively charged, due to missing electrons or by having too many electrons, this encourages and explains another type of movement. Thus far we have considered the movement of electrons along the orbital path together with their movement between orbits. Now we will consider their “spin” together with the way they jump between individual atoms.
We have already noted that like charges repel each other while unlike charges attract. Since this is the all important gist of the matter we will reinforce the concept by stating it another way. Two negative charges repel one another, while a positive charge attracts a negative charge. At the heart of electronics is the movement caused by this attraction / repulsion phenomena.
It should also be noted that some materials facilitate such movement. They are called conductors. Other materials resist or block such movement; they are called resistors and insulators. Whether a given material has conducting or insulating properties is a matter of atomic structure. A simple atom, like Hydrogen, is not likely to ever give up its electron without a fight because, after all, it only has one. Copper is a far more complex element that has twenty nine electrons. Because some of these are moving along an orbit relatively far from the nucleus, the outer electrons are loosely held and can be thrown off. New research has also shown that electrons leave these outer orbits tangentially much like the way a ball, thrown by a child, would leave a merry-go-round.