Almost simple #2: What is the speed of ELECTRICITY?

Almost simple #2: What is the speed of ELECTRICITY?


What is the speed of electricity? An electric current is a flow of electric
charge in one direction. Since we live in an electrically interconnect world, we could
be easily lead to believe that electrons travel instantaneously or, a bit more accurate, at
the speed of light. But that’s not what happens here. In this
cable, while energy travels at almost the speed of light, the free electrons that transmit
that energy travel really slowly. We’re talking millimeters per hour. Here is a live footage of electrons moving
through a wire. When you flip the switch the lights turn on
very quickly, almost instantaneously. But the electrons inside the wire will move just
a tiny tiny bit. It’s almost as if you were to fill up a pipe with marbles. If we push
another marble into a filled pipe, then one marble would have to exit the other end. The
marbles moved a little bit while the energy transfer was instantaneous. And this is how electric current works. The
electrons travel very slowly, but the energy travels fast.

29 thoughts on “Almost simple #2: What is the speed of ELECTRICITY?

  1. Small correction: At Minute 1:00 you say, the energy tranfer was instantaneous. But, well, it wasn't. It travels at the speed of light. Same thing as the infamous "how quick is the end of a 1-light-year long stick if you wiggle it about…"-question. No information can be tranfered quicker than the speed of light. At least from our current understanding of physics.

  2. I'd like to stay with you with a room with 2L of coffee and talk about phisycs all night long ahahaha however, great job keep it up !!

  3. Thank you for your explanation of how the electrons travel! However, there's something more I'm interested in:
    – What defines current and voltage at the level of electrons? What does higher voltage and/or higher current do to the electrons?
    – What heats up the wires if electrons are traveling so slow?

    Thank you for your reply!

  4. Thank you, very interesting like the marbles analogy. Still wondering though, how fast does the "energy" travel? If I have an electric power cable a mile long, and a lamp at one end and switch at another. When the switch is thrown, how much time lapses for the energy (voltage, current, wave, etc. or whatever term accurately describes this) to reach the device one mile (or Kilom) away?

  5. Why do lights have hertz instead of being a constant flow( sorry for the bad structure of the question) this question has been bothering me for some time. Thankyou

  6. Your videos are awesome dude. Keep up the good work. You ask really good questions and explain them really simple.

  7. simple question here.. how fast the electric through the copper before it being push? mean if we filling the tube how fast the marble move before it fill up the tube? that my main question here

  8. Its 96% of speed of light = 178.560 miles per second. No YouTubers asks the question "What is the speed of electricity" to get the answer for their physics class or electron speed. Its the speed of electric in normal copper wire, "how fast the light can be on if I flip the switch" type of question.
    Like vibration of sound and water. that means dripple effect. They say the tsunami reached 500 mile per hour, That means all the particle at the front bump into the next particle and so on, and the end result is when the initial shock ware started an hour later the effect reach a shore 500 miles away. that's easy! But when you try to get the speed of electricity in a normal copper wire as "Jonny Shaw" asked, no one know for sure and they always said it all depend on material as most of them don't really know but still posting their vids on like this.

  9. It's all about money, now that I pay premium for my internet connection, electrons move faster, much faster….
    :o)

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