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Concept# Electric charge

Summary

Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field. Electric charge can be positive or negative (commonly carried by protons and electrons respectively, by convention). Like charges repel each other and unlike charges attract each other. An object with no net charge is referred to as electrically neutral. Early knowledge of how charged substances interact is now called classical electrodynamics, and is still accurate for problems that do not require consideration of quantum effects.
Electric charge is a conserved property; the net charge of an isolated system, the amount of positive charge minus the amount of negative charge, cannot change. Electric charge is carried by subatomic particles. In ordinary matter, negative charge is carried by electrons, and positive charge is carried by the protons in the nuclei of atoms. If there are more electrons than protons in a piece of matter, it will have a negative charge, if there are fewer it will have a positive charge, and if there are equal numbers it will be neutral. Charge is quantized; it comes in integer multiples of individual small units called the elementary charge, e, about which is the smallest charge that can exist freely. Particles called quarks have smaller charges, multiples of 1/3e, but they are found only combined in particles that have a charge that is an integer multiple of e. In the Standard Model, charge is an absolutely conserved quantum number. The proton has a charge of +e, and the electron has a charge of −e.
Electric charges produce electric fields. A moving charge also produces a magnetic field. The interaction of electric charges with an electromagnetic field (a combination of an electric and a magnetic field) is the source of the electromagnetic (or Lorentz) force, which is one of the four fundamental interactions in physics. The study of photon-mediated interactions among charged particles is called quantum electrodynamics.

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