A simple electric circuit, where current is represented by the letter i
. The relationship between the voltage (V), resistance (R), and current (I) is V=IR; this is known as Ohm's law
An electric current is the rate of flow of electric charge past a point:2:622 or region.:614 An electric current is said to exist when there is a net flow of electric charge through a region.:832 In electric circuits this charge is often carried by electrons moving through a wire. It can also be carried by ions in an electrolyte, or by both ions and electrons such as in an ionized gas (plasma).
The SI unit of electric current is the ampere, which is the flow of electric charge across a surface at the rate of one coulomb per second. The ampere (symbol: A) is an SI base unit:15 Electric current is measured using a device called an ammeter.:788
Electric currents cause Joule heating, which creates light in incandescent light bulbs. They also create magnetic fields, which are used in motors, inductors and generators.
The moving charged particles in an electric current are called charge carriers. In metals, one or more electrons from each atom are loosely bound to the atom, and can move freely about within the metal. These conduction electrons are the charge carriers in metal conductors.
The conventional symbol for current is I, which originates from the French phrase intensité du courant, (current intensity). Current intensity is often referred to simply as current. The I symbol was used by André-Marie Ampère, after whom the unit of electric current is named, in formulating Ampère's force law (1820). The notation travelled from France to Great Britain, where it became standard, although at least one journal did not change from using C to I until 1896.