coulomb

coulomb

[koo-lom, -lohm, koo-lom, -lohm]
coulomb [for C. A. de Coulomb], abbr. coul or C, unit of electric charge. The absolute coulomb, the current U.S. legal standard, is the amount of charge transferred in 1 second by a current of 1 ampere; i.e., it is 1 ampere-second.
Coulomb, Charles Augustin de, 1736-1806, French physicist. In 1789 he retired from his posts as military engineer and as superintendent of waters and fountains and devoted himself to continuing his scientific research. He was known for his work on electricity, magnetism, and friction, and he invented a magnetoscope, a magnetometer, and a torsion balance that he employed in determining torsional elasticity and in establishing Coulomb's law. The unit of quantity of electric charge, the coulomb, is named in his honor.

See study by C. S. Gilmor (1971).

or electric force

Force between two electric charges. The magnitude of the force math.F is proportional to the product of the two charges, math.q1 and math.q2, divided by the square of the distance math.r between them, or math.F = math.kmath.q1math.q2/math.r2, where math.k is a constant that depends on the measurement system being used. The Coulomb force can be one of repulsion, such as the force between two objects having like charges, or it can be attractive, such as the force between two objects having opposite charges.

Learn more about Coulomb force with a free trial on Britannica.com.

The coulomb (symbol: C) is the SI unit of electric charge. It is named after Charles-Augustin de Coulomb.

Definition

1 coulomb is the amount of electric charge transported by a current of 1 ampere in 1 second.

1 mathrm{C} = 1 mathrm{A} cdot 1 mathrm{s}

It can also be expressed in terms of capacitance and voltage, where one coulomb is equal to one farad of capacitance times one volt of electric potential difference:

1 mathrm{C} = 1 mathrm{F} cdot 1 mathrm{V}

Explanation

In principle, the coulomb could be defined in terms of the charge of an electron or elementary charge. Since the values of the Josephson (CIPM (1988) Recommendation 1, PV 56; 19) and von Klitzing (CIPM (1988), Recommendation 2, PV 56; 20) constants have been given conventional values (KJ ≡ 4.835 979 Hz/V and RK ≡ 2.581 280 7 Ω), it is possible to combine these values to form an alternative (not yet official) definition of the coulomb. A coulomb is then equal to exactly 6.241 509 629 152 65 elementary charges. Combined with the present definition of the ampere, this proposed definition would make the kilogram a derived unit.

In everyday situations, positive and negative charges are usually balanced out. According to Coulomb's Law, two point charges of +1 C, one meter apart, would experience a repulsive force of 9 N, roughly the equivalent of 900,000 metric tons of weight.

Historical note

The ampere was historically a derived unit—being defined as 1 coulomb per second. Therefore the coulomb, rather than the ampere, was the SI base electrical unit.

In 1960 the SI made the ampere the base unit.

SI multiples

Conversions

  • The electrical charge of one mole of electrons (approximately 6.022, or Avogadro's number) is known as a faraday (actually –1 faraday, since electrons are negatively charged). One faraday equals 96485.3399 coulombs (the Faraday constant). In terms of Avogadro's number (NA), one coulomb is equal to approximately 1.036 × NA elementary charges.
  • one ampere-hour = 3600 C
  • The elementary charge is 1.602176487 C
  • One statcoulomb (statC), the CGS electrostatic unit of charge (esu), is approximately 3.3356 C or about 1/3 nC.
  • 1 coulomb is the amount of electrical charge in 6.241506 electrons or other elementary charged particles.

See also

References

1. Kowalski, Ludwik, "A Short History of the SI Units in Electricity", pp. 97-99 vol 24, The Physics Teacher, Feb 1986

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