UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Is electricity matter? I have found many different websites that say it is, but others say that it isn't. Would you please clear this up?
Answer 1:

Electricity is the movement of electrons (or anything else that has electric charge). Electrons are matter. However, electrons by themselves are not electricity. Because electricity requires movement of matter, you could say that it's matter or that it's not, depending on your definition of matter.

Let me give an example of what's basically the same question and which might be able to show why this is a confusing question: is wind matter? Wind is the movement of air. Air is matter. Does this mean that wind is also matter? (Do you see why this makes definitions unclear?)

Normally, I would have to regard electricity as a form of energy rather than matter, but unlike "pure" forms of energy such as light, electricity needs matter to exist.


Answer 2:

It's tricky because the word "electricity" has an everyday usage that refers to energy or power (power is energy per time). Neither energy nor power is matter.

In physics, usually the word "electricity" isn't really used. "Electric current" is more common, and is defined as the flow of charges, where the charges are held by particles (electrons). Electrons have mass, so they are definitely matter. But is the *flow* of electrons the matter? I would argue no, but I can understand why it may be debated on the web.


Answer 3:

This is an interesting question, but it is a question really of semantics. Meaning that it is a discussion about what the specific definition of "electricity" is, which is vaguer than you might think. You should focus on learning the fundamentals of how electricity works, because then you will understand why somebody would think one way or another.

You can look up "electricity" in a dictionary, encyclopedia, or textbook and probably get several slightly different but similar answers. I would say that "electricity" refers to the flow of energy or information by the movement of charged particles. In most cases those charged particles are the negatively charged electrons orbiting atomic nuclei, but in some cases like batteries you can have movement of positively charged ions (atoms or molecules missing an electron or two, leaving them with a positive charge). These charged particles have mass, and are thus "matter". So based on this definition I would say that matter is required for electricity to work, but electricity itself is not the matter but the interaction of the the electric charges that these particles have by electric and magnetic fields.



Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use