# Drift Velocity – Electricity

## Speed of electricity

The word electricity refers generally to the movement of electrons (or other charge carriers) through a conductor in the presence of a potential difference or an electric field. The speed of this flow has multiple meanings. If we are going to deal with the question of how fast electricity flows, then we have to distinguish two basic types of speeds.

• Wave propagation speed.
• Drift velocity

In everyday electrical and electronic devices, the signals travel as electromagnetic waves typically at 50%–99% of the speed of light in vacuum, while the electrons themselves move much more slowly.

### Drift Velocity

In electricity, drift velocity refers to the average velocity of the charge carriers, usually electrons, as they move through a conductor under the influence of an electric field.

When a voltage is applied across a conductor, an electric field is established, which causes the electrons to move in a certain direction. However, the electrons do not move in a straight line but rather undergo a random motion due to collisions with the atoms of the conductor losing energy and scattering in random directions. This creates resistance to the flow of electrons and causes some of the energy of the electric field to be converted into heat.

This random motion causes the electrons to have an average velocity, which is called the drift velocity.

The drift velocity of electrons in a conductor is typically quite slow, on the order of a few millimeters per second, even though the current in the conductor may be quite high. This is because the electrons are constantly colliding with the atoms of the conductor, which slows down their overall motion. Drift velocity is proportional to current. In a resistive material, it is also proportional to the magnitude of an external electric field.

While the drift velocity is relatively slow, it is still an important concept in understanding the behavior of electric currents in conductors. The overall flow of electric charge in a conductor is determined by the combination of the drift velocity and the number of charge carriers moving through the conductor.

The drift velocity of electrons in a conductor can be calculated using the following formula:

vd = (I / nAq)

where:

• vd is the drift velocity of electrons in meters per second (m/s)
• I is the current flowing through the conductor in amperes (A)
• n is the number of charge carriers per unit volume in the conductor (in m^-3)
• A is the cross-sectional area of the conductor in square meters (m^2)
• q is the charge of a single electron, which is approximately 1.602 x 10^-19 Coulombs (C)

This formula is derived from the equation for electrical current (I = nAqvd), which relates the current flowing through a conductor to the number of charge carriers, their velocity, and the cross-sectional area of the conductor.

For example, when a DC voltage is applied, the electron drift velocity will increase in speed proportionally to the strength of the electric field. The drift velocity in a 2 mm diameter copper wire in 1 ampere current is approximately 8 cm per hour. AC voltages cause no net movement; the electrons oscillate back and forth in response to the alternating electric field (over a distance of a few micrometers).

### Drift Velocity and Electron Mobility

Drift velocity and electron mobility are two related concepts in the study of electricity and conductors, but they refer to different aspects of the behavior of charge carriers, such as electrons, in a material.

Drift velocity refers to the average velocity of charge carriers, such as electrons, as they move through a conductor under the influence of an electric field. This velocity is affected by factors such as the density of the charge carriers, the cross-sectional area of the conductor, and the strength of the electric field. The drift velocity is typically quite slow, on the order of a few millimeters per second, due to the frequent collisions between charge carriers and the atoms of the conductor.

Electron mobility, on the other hand, is a measure of how easily electrons can move through a material under the influence of an electric field. It is defined as the ratio of the drift velocity of the electrons to the electric field strength. In other words, electron mobility is a measure of how efficiently the electrons can move through the material, taking into account the resistance to their motion due to collisions with the atoms of the conductor. The unit of electron mobility is meters squared per volt-second (m^2/Vs).

While drift velocity and electron mobility are related, they are not interchangeable. The drift velocity is a physical quantity that describes the motion of charge carriers in a conductor, while electron mobility is a material property that characterizes how easily electrons can move through a specific material under the influence of an electric field.

The primary purpose of this project is to help the public to learn some exciting and important information about electricity and magnetism.