Electric current

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The net transfer of electric charge per unit time. It is usually measured in amperes. The passage of electric current involves a transfer of energy. Except in the case of superconductivity, a current always heats the medium through which it passes.

On the other hand, a stream of electrons or ions in a vacuum, which also may be regarded as an electric current, produces no local heating. Measurable currents range in magnitude from the nearly instantaneous 105 or so amperes in lightning strokes to values of the order of 10-16 ampere, which occur in research applications.

All matter may be classified as conducting, semi-conducting, or insulating, depending upon the ease with which electric current is transmitted through it. Most metals, electrolytic solutions, and highly ionized gases are conductors. Transition elements, such as silicon and germanium, are semiconductors, while most other substances are insulators.

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