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Current and Voltage- The Difference

Updated on February 4, 2014

There are misconceptions in the mind of a lot of people who find almost no difference or misinterpret what they really want to say like by replacing voltage for current and vice versa. So hop in to clear your doubts.

The Basics

For understanding what voltage means you need to understand electric potential.

Potential gives a measure how badly a thing wants to be at a safe place and that safe place is where there is no one to bully it. So higher the potential higher will be the eagerness to get to a safer place. e.g. Suppose you are climbing a mountain. Higher you go, more will be the fear of altitude and more badly you will want to come down. Hence as you are climbing, your potential is increasing and as you decline, potential decreases. Which will be the safe place then? Its the Ground!

Now lets apply this concept in an electric field.

An electron with its electric field
An electron with its electric field

Now what is an electric field?

It is the space around any charged particle where its effect can be measured. I hope you know what a electron is and that opposite charges attract while same repels.For those who don't, electron is a negatively charged particle that circles around center (nucleus) of an atom. So anywhere around an electron there is its electric field.

Lets assume that there is an electric field produced by an electron A. Now if we want to bring another electron B nearer to A, it will oppose B ( same charges hate each other as said above). So if we force B to move closer to A, we are increasing the potential of because he is not feeling good about this. How will you feel if someone forces you to live with someone you hate the most. Now B will want to stay away as far as possible, ideally at infinity. The proper definition of Electric Potential is

" The amount of effort you put into bringing B nearer to A is called potential".

Now Comes Potential Difference,aka Voltage

Previously we were talking about moving the electron as far as possible or away from the electric field. What if we want to move the electron B, from one place to another within the field?. Somewhat like a situation where you are at your enemy's house and you are asked to move from one room to another. The effort one put in to move you to another room is what potential difference is about.

"Potential difference or voltage is simply the difference between the potential at two places".

It is measured in Volts (v).


Current is what happens when there is potential difference. Again supposing that you are at your enemy's house and the way to your house is through a bridge which is currently broken. So as soon as the bridge is repaired, you will rush to your house. Same is with the electrons. It is the motion of electrons that constitutes current .But they also need something through which they can reach a lower potential and that something is a conductor.

"A conductor in electronics is a thing that conducts electrons or let them pass through it".

Again taking that electron example. If we connect the electron to the point where we want it to move by a conductor, then it will rush towards that place if and only if the potential is lower than the present potential as electron will not want to worsen the situation by moving close to the enemy A by itself. This is an important fact that current only flows from higher potential to lower potential and this current flows till the connection is broken or the potential is leveled at both ends. Current is measured in Ampere (A).


Voltage Supplied to Houses

You might be aware of the voltage supplied to your houses.It is also written on the box of all electrical appliances. Well, if you don't, then let me tell you that it varies from country to country as each country has it's standard of electricity production. In my country, it's 230v while in US, i think that it is about 110v. All standard voltages are measured with respect to the ground. Hence that 230v is the difference between the potential of power station and earth/ground.


The Shock Value

What if you touch a naked wire through which the current is flowing? Will you fell a shock? Yes and no. Yes if you are connected to a lower potential through some conductor. No if you are not. Do you know that your body is a very good conductor of electricity and that earth/ground is considered at lowest possible potential i.e. zero. So if you touch a live wire and you are standing on the ground bare foot, you will definitely fell the shock depending on the voltage.

But if you are hanging in the air holding the live wire in your hand and you are not connected to the ground by any means, then you will not get a shock. That's because you feel shock when current flows through your body. And when you are holding the live wire in this manner,you aer in mid air, thus, not conducting at all!!!. Though there is a potential difference/voltage developed across your body, current still needs a way to reach to the ground and when that link is established, the game is over. So voltage doesn't kill, its the current which kills, but that current is caused by the voltage.

Safety Measures

While working near any potential source:-

  • Always keep yourself insulated from ground by wearing anything insulated on your feet. Actually every footwear is insulated provided you are not wearing some steel shoes.
  • Always keep safety caps on unused sockets so that a kid might not put his finger into it to have a new makeover.
  • Keep water away from every electric source.
  • Check for any naked wire
  • DO NOT TRY ANYTHING SAID ABOVE as it is for educational purpose only.

I have tried my best to keep this hub simple so that everyone can understand these concepts. Please leave your valuable comments and +1 if you like.


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    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      An amazing hub! Well written, easy to understand. You have managed to take a difficult subject and make it interesting with excellent examples. I love this! Rating UP+. Thank you.