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Question Video: Understanding the Effect of Electrical Resistance on the Motion of Charges Science

If a component in a circuit has a higher electrical resistance, is it easier or harder for charges to move through it?

02:16

Video Transcript

If a component in a circuit has a higher electrical resistance, is it easier or harder for charges to move through it?

What we are essentially being asked here is to figure out what happens to moving charges in a component of a circuit if it has a higher electrical resistance. To help us answer this, let’s look at a typical component in a circuit diagram. This light bulb has some value of resistance which affects how charges move through it. Given the orientation of this power cell, we know that the direction of conventional current for this circuit should be in the clockwise direction, which means that the direction that the electric charge in the circuit flows in must also be in the clockwise direction.

We see that the charge is flowing through the bulb here, meaning that the resistance of the bulb will affect its flow. Recall that the electrical resistance of a component or material determines how much electric charge is opposed when trying to flow through said component or material. The SI units of resistance are ohms, with a higher value indicating a higher resistance.

When representing a component’s resistance value, we usually write a letter 𝑅. When this resistance opposes the motion of the electric charge that passes through the component, larger values of resistance will oppose the motion more, making it harder for charges to move through it. However, no matter how large the value of resistance is, it will not result in the current reversing direction; it only slows the flow, meaning the current can decrease significantly, but at most it will stop completely not reverse direction.

Now that we know a bit more about electrical resistance, let’s look back at our question text. If we have a higher electrical resistance in a component of the circuit, that would mean we will measure a higher value of ohms for that component. If there is a higher electrical resistance, the charge will be more opposed and will have a harder time moving through the component and thus around the circuit.

It’s not just components in circuits, though; almost all materials have some amount of inherent electrical resistance, even the materials we build wires of the circuits with. Ideally though, we build wires out of materials with very small values of resistance, such as copper, aluminum, or silver. This is because higher values of resistance would make it harder for electrical charge to move through it. The correct answer is that it is harder.

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