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Thread: Does charge convert to heat or cause heat when passing through a resistor?

  1. #1 Does charge convert to heat or cause heat when passing through a resistor? 
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Clearly not a physicist so thank you for your kind understanding :-)

    When charge passes through a resistor or any imperfect conductor... some heat is produced.

    My question is...

    a - does the charge passing through the resistance cause the heat
    b - does the charge convert to heat when it impacts resistance?

    I would intuitively think 'a' else a current measurement on each side of a resistor would measure more current going in than coming out... right?

    Another (probably poor) example is an ideal LC parallel circuit with zero resistance vs a real world LC circuit which of course has some restive component.

    If you could excite the circuit by dropping a single charge on to it the capacitor would charge appropriately and then discharge into the inductor creating a magnetic field.
    .. then the magnetic field would collapse, cut the wires in the coil, and charge the cap back up... and the cycle would repeat over and over... ah la... an oscillator.

    But given resistance in the circuit the oscillation would ultimately dampen and stop... so in that case does the single charged added to the circuit just stop and sit at some point in the circuit... or has it converted to heat energy and is now just gone?

    I'm sure you guys can bury me in relationships and the laws of physics... but hopefully you can find a way to keep it simple for a simple person :-)

    Thanks for any help.
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    The motion of charge through a material involves inelastic collisions, which is a fancy way of saying it bashes its way through the material, making the atoms in the latter vibrate. The energy transferred in these collisions is distributed over a range of values. A hot thing is a collection of atoms with a characteristic distribution of energies above that at a cooler temperature, so that's how charge makes things hot.

    Charge doesn't disappear (it's a strictly conserved quantity); it simply gives some of its energy up to the material.

    Just repeat to yourself, over and over: Energy is conserved, and so is charge.
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