If electrons flow from lower potential to higher potential, then why does the direction of current go from higher potential to lower potential?

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gsenviro's profile pic

gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Current flow is always opposite to the direction of electron flow. This is because Benjamin Franklin defined the current as the flow of positive charge (since electrons were not discovered until that time). This current is also known as the conventional current. By the time the electrons were discovered and it was established that electron movement causes current flow, a significant amount of literature had been generated using the conventional definition and the same definition was adopted as the standard. 

Kindly note that positive and negative are arbitrary terms coined by human beings and have no physical relevance beyond human discussions. We conventionally think of positive as having something extra and negative as lacking something. Franklin thought current was flowing from wax to wool and named wax as positive and wool as negative (lacking carriers), whereas in reality it was the wool that had excess electrons. Thus, direction of current flow is only a convention.

garthman99's profile pic

garthman99 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Electrons flow from negative (lower) to positive (higher) potential. Conventional current is the flow of positive charge which will be opposite to the flow of electrons. So conventional current flows from positive battery terminal (higher potential) to negative battery terminal (lower potential).

hkj1385's profile pic

hkj1385 | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

The direction of current is always opposite to the direction of flow of electrons.

Electrons have negative charge, therefore they originate at lower potential and flows towards the higher potential side.

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