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Chapter 27

Current and Resistance


27.1 Electric Current

27.2 Resistance
27.3 A Model for Electrical
27.4 Resistance and Temperature
27.5 Superconductors
27.6 Electrical Power

▲ These power lines transfer energy from the power company to homes and businesses.
The energy is transferred at a very high voltage, possibly hundreds of thousands of volts in
some cases. Despite the fact that this makes power lines very dangerous, the high voltage
results in less loss of power due to resistance in the wires. (Telegraph Colour Library/FPG)

Thus far our treatment of electrical phenomena has been confined to the study of
charges in equilibrium situations, or electrostatics. We now consider situations involving
electric charges that are not in equilibrium. We use the term electric current, or simply
current, to describe the rate of flow of charge through some region of space. Most prac-
tical applications of electricity deal with electric currents. For example, the battery in a
flashlight produces a current in the filament of the bulb when the switch is turned on.
A variety of home appliances operate on alternating current. In these common situa-
tions, current exists in a conductor, such as a copper wire. It also is possible for
currents to exist outside a conductor. For instance, a beam of electrons in a television
picture tube constitutes a current.
This chapter begins with the definition of current. A microscopic description of cur-
rent is given, and some of the factors that contribute to the opposition to the flow of
charge in conductors are discussed. A classical model is used to describe electrical con-
duction in metals, and some of the limitations of this model are cited. We also define
electrical resistance and introduce a new circuit element, the resistor. We conclude by
discussing the rate at which energy is transferred to a device in an electric circuit.

27.1 Electric Current

In this section, we study the flow of electric charges through a piece of material. The
amount of flow depends on the material through which the charges are passing and the
potential difference across the material. Whenever there is a net flow of charge through
some region, an electric current is said to exist.
It is instructive to draw an analogy between water flow and current. In many
localities it is common practice to install low-flow showerheads in homes as a water-
conservation measure. We quantify the flow of water from these and similar devices by
specifying the amount of water that emerges during a given time interval, which is
often measured in liters per minute. On a grander scale, we can characterize a river
+ current by describing the rate at which the water flows past a particular location. For
+ example, the flow over the brink at Niagara Falls is maintained at rates between
+ 1 400 m3/s and 2 800 m3/s.
+ There is also an analogy between thermal conduction and current. In Section 20.7,
we discussed the flow of energy by heat through a sample of material. The rate of
I energy flow is determined by the material as well as the temperature difference across
Figure 27.1 Charges in motion the material, as described by Equation 20.14.
through an area A. The time rate at
which charge flows through the To define current more precisely, suppose that charges are moving perpendicular to
area is defined as the current I. a surface of area A, as shown in Figure 27.1. (This area could be the cross-sectional area
The direction of the current is the of a wire, for example.) The current is the rate at which charge flows through this
direction in which positive charges surface. If !Q is the amount of charge that passes through this area in a time interval
flow when free to do so. !t, the average current I av is equal to the charge that passes through A per unit time:
Iav " (27.1)

S ECTI O N 27.1 • Electric Current 833

If the rate at which charge flows varies in time, then the current varies in time; we
define the instantaneous current I as the differential limit of average current:

I! (27.2) Electric current

The SI unit of current is the ampere (A):

1A" (27.3)
That is, 1 A of current is equivalent to 1 C of charge passing through the surface area
in 1 s.
The charges passing through the surface in Figure 27.1 can be positive or negative,
or both. It is conventional to assign to the current the same direction as the flow ▲ PITFALL PREVENTION
of positive charge. In electrical conductors, such as copper or aluminum, the current
27.1 “Current Flow” Is
is due to the motion of negatively charged electrons. Therefore, when we speak of
current in an ordinary conductor, the direction of the current is opposite the
direction of flow of electrons. However, if we are considering a beam of positively The phrase current flow is com-
monly used, although it is strictly
charged protons in an accelerator, the current is in the direction of motion of the
incorrect, because current is a
protons. In some cases—such as those involving gases and electrolytes, for instance—
flow (of charge). This is similar
the current is the result of the flow of both positive and negative charges. to the phrase heat transfer, which
If the ends of a conducting wire are connected to form a loop, all points on the is also redundant because heat is
loop are at the same electric potential, and hence the electric field is zero within and a transfer (of energy). We will
at the surface of the conductor. Because the electric field is zero, there is no net avoid this phrase and speak of
transport of charge through the wire, and therefore there is no current. However, if flow of charge or charge flow.
the ends of the conducting wire are connected to a battery, all points on the loop are
not at the same potential. The battery sets up a potential difference between the ends
of the loop, creating an electric field within the wire. The electric field exerts forces on
the conduction electrons in the wire, causing them to move in the wire, thus creating a
current. ∆x
It is common to refer to a moving charge (positive or negative) as a mobile charge
carrier. For example, the mobile charge carriers in a metal are electrons.
Microscopic Model of Current
We can relate current to the motion of the charge carriers by describing a microscopic
model of conduction in a metal. Consider the current in a conductor of cross-sectional vd ∆t
area A (Fig. 27.2). The volume of a section of the conductor of length !x (the gray Figure 27.2 A section of a uniform
region shown in Fig. 27.2) is A !x. If n represents the number of mobile charge conductor of cross-sectional area A.
carriers per unit volume (in other words, the charge carrier density), the number of The mobile charge carriers move
carriers in the gray section is nA !x. Therefore, the total charge !Q in this section is with a speed vd , and the displace-
ment they experience in the x
!Q " number of carriers in section # charge per carrier " (nA !x)q direction in a time interval !t is
!x " vd !t. If we choose !t to
where q is the charge on each carrier. If the carriers move with a speed vd , the displace- be the time interval during which
ment they experience in the x direction in a time interval !t is !x " vd !t. Let us the charges are displaced, on
choose !t to be the time interval required for the charges in the cylinder to move the average, by the length of the
cylinder, the number of carriers in
through a displacement whose magnitude is equal to the length of the cylinder. This the section of length !x is nAvd !t,
time interval is also that required for all of the charges in the cylinder to pass through where n is the number of carriers
the circular area at one end. With this choice, we can write !Q in the form per unit volume.

!Q " (nAvd !t)q

If we divide both sides of this equation by !t, we see that the average current in the
conductor is
∆Q Current in a conductor in terms
I av " " nqvdA (27.4)
∆t of microscopic quantities
834 C HAPTE R 27 • Current and Resistance

vd The speed of the charge carriers vd is an average speed called the drift speed. To
understand the meaning of drift speed, consider a conductor in which the charge car-
riers are free electrons. If the conductor is isolated—that is, the potential difference
– across it is zero—then these electrons undergo random motion that is analogous to the
motion of gas molecules. As we discussed earlier, when a potential difference is applied
across the conductor (for example, by means of a battery), an electric field is set up in
E the conductor; this field exerts an electric force on the electrons, producing a current.
Figure 27.3 A schematic However, the electrons do not move in straight lines along the conductor. Instead, they
representation of the zigzag collide repeatedly with the metal atoms, and their resultant motion is complicated and
motion of an electron in a zigzag (Fig. 27.3). Despite the collisions, the electrons move slowly along the conduc-
conductor. The changes in tor (in a direction opposite that of E) at the drift velocity vd .
direction are the result of collisions
between the electron and atoms in
We can think of the atom–electron collisions in a conductor as an effective internal
the conductor. Note that the net friction (or drag force) similar to that experienced by the molecules of a liquid flowing
motion of the electron is opposite through a pipe stuffed with steel wool. The energy transferred from the electrons to
the direction of the electric field. the metal atoms during collisions causes an increase in the vibrational energy of the
Because of the acceleration of the atoms and a corresponding increase in the temperature of the conductor.
charge carriers due to the electric
force, the paths are actually
parabolic. However, the drift speed
is much smaller than the average
speed, so the parabolic shape is not
Quick Quiz 27.1 Consider positive and negative charges moving horizon-
visible on this scale. tally through the four regions shown in Figure 27.4. Rank the current in these four
regions, from lowest to highest.

+ + – –
+ + +
– + +
– –
+ +

(a) (b) (c) (d)

Figure 27.4 (Quick Quiz 27.1) Charges move through four regions.

Quick Quiz 27.2 Electric charge is conserved. As a consequence, when current

arrives at a junction of wires, the charges can take either of two paths out of the junction
and the numerical sum of the currents in the two paths equals the current that entered
the junction. Thus, current is (a) a vector (b) a scalar (c) neither a vector nor a scalar.

Example 27.1 Drift Speed in a Copper Wire

The 12-gauge copper wire in a typical residential building 6.02 # 1023 electrons
" 1.00 #1 m10 #
6 cm3
has a cross-sectional area of 3.31 # 10$6 m2. If it carries a n"
7.09 cm3 3
current of 10.0 A, what is the drift speed of the electrons?
Assume that each copper atom contributes one free " 8.49 # 1028 electrons/m3
electron to the current. The density of copper is 8.95 g/cm3. From Equation 27.4, we find that the drift speed is
Solution From the periodic table of the elements in vd "
Appendix C, we find that the molar mass of copper is
63.5 g/mol. Recall that 1 mol of any substance contains where q is the absolute value of the charge on each electron.
Avogadro’s number of atoms (6.02 # 1023). Knowing the Thus,
density of copper, we can calculate the volume occupied by
63.5 g (" 1 mol) of copper: vd "
m 63.5 g 10.0 C/s
V" " " 7.09 cm3 "
% 8.95 g/cm3 (8.49 # 1028 m $3)(1.60 # 10 $19 C)(3.31 # 10 $6 m2)
Because each copper atom contributes one free electron to " 2.22 # 10 $4 m/s
the current, we have
S ECTI O N 27.2 • Resistance 835

Example 27.1 shows that typical drift speeds are very low. For instance, electrons
traveling with a speed of 2.22 # 10$4 m/s would take about 75 min to travel 1 m! In
view of this, you might wonder why a light turns on almost instantaneously when a 27.2 Electrons Are
switch is thrown. In a conductor, changes in the electric field that drives the free Available Everywhere
electrons travel through the conductor with a speed close to that of light. Thus, Electrons do not have to travel from
when you flip on a light switch, electrons already in the filament of the lightbulb the light switch to the light in order
experience electric forces and begin moving after a time interval on the order of for the light to operate. Electrons
nanoseconds. already in the filament of the
lightbulb move in response to the
electric field set up by the battery.
Notice also that a battery does
27.2 Resistance not provide electrons to the
circuit. It establishes the electric
field that exerts a force on
In Chapter 24 we found that the electric field inside a conductor is zero. However, this electrons already in the wires and
statement is true only if the conductor is in static equilibrium. The purpose of this elements of the circuit.
section is to describe what happens when the charges in the conductor are not in equi-
librium, in which case there is an electric field in the conductor.
Consider a conductor of cross-sectional area A carrying a current I. The current
density J in the conductor is defined as the current per unit area. Because the current
I " nqvd A, the current density is
J ! " nqvd (27.5)
where J has SI units of A/m2. This expression is valid only if the current density is uni-
form and only if the surface of cross-sectional area A is perpendicular to the direction
of the current. In general, current density is a vector quantity:

J " nq vd (27.6) Current density

From this equation, we see that current density is in the direction of charge motion
for positive charge carriers and opposite the direction of motion for negative
charge carriers.
A current density J and an electric field E are established in a conductor
whenever a potential difference is maintained across the conductor. In some
materials, the current density is proportional to the electric field:

J " &E (27.7)

where the constant of proportionality & is called the conductivity of the conductor.1
Materials that obey Equation 27.7 are said to follow Ohm’s law, named after Georg
Simon Ohm (1789–1854). More specifically, Ohm’s law states that

for many materials (including most metals), the ratio of the current density to the
electric field is a constant & that is independent of the electric field producing the

Materials that obey Ohm’s law and hence demonstrate this simple relationship
between E and J are said to be ohmic. Experimentally, however, it is found that not all Georg Simon Ohm
materials have this property. Materials and devices that do not obey Ohm’s law are said German physicist (1789–1854)
to be nonohmic. Ohm’s law is not a fundamental law of nature but rather an empirical Ohm, a high school teacher and
relationship valid only for certain materials. later a professor at the University
We can obtain an equation useful in practical applications by considering a of Munich, formulated the
segment of straight wire of uniform cross-sectional area A and length !, as shown in concept of resistance and
discovered the proportionalities
expressed in Equations 27.7 and
27.8. (© Bettmann/Corbis)
1 Do not confuse conductivity & with surface charge density, for which the same symbol is used.
836 C HAPTE R 27 • Current and Resistance


27.3 We’ve Seen

Something Like A I
Equation 27.8 Before
Vb Va
In Chapter 5, we introduced
Newton’s second law, )F " ma, E
for a net force on an object of Figure 27.5 A uniform conductor of length ! and cross-sectional area A. A potential
mass m. This can be written as difference !V " Vb $ Va maintained across the conductor sets up an electric field E,
and this field produces a current I that is proportional to the potential difference.
m" %F
Figure 27.5. A potential difference !V " Vb $ Va is maintained across the wire, creat-
In that chapter, we defined mass ing in the wire an electric field and a current. If the field is assumed to be uniform, the
as resistance to a change in motion in potential difference is related to the field through the relationship2
response to an external force. Mass as
resistance to changes in motion is !V " E!
analogous to electrical resistance
Therefore, we can express the magnitude of the current density in the wire as
to charge flow, and Equation 27.8
is analogous to the form of ∆V
Newton’s second law shown here. J " &E " &
Because J " I/A, we can write the potential difference as

∆V "
J" " &!A # I " R I
27.4 Equation 27.8 Is Not The quantity R " !/&A is called the resistance of the conductor. We can define the
Ohm’s Law resistance as the ratio of the potential difference across a conductor to the current in
Many individuals call Equation the conductor:
27.8 Ohm’s law, but this is incor-
rect. This equation is simply the ∆V
R ! (27.8)
definition of resistance, and pro- I
vides an important relationship
between voltage, current, and We will use this equation over and over again when studying electric circuits. From this
resistance. Ohm’s law is related result we see that resistance has SI units of volts per ampere. One volt per ampere is
to a linear relationship between J defined to be one ohm ('):
and E (Eq. 27.7) or, equivalently,
between I and !V, which, from 1V
1' ! (27.9)
Equation 27.8, indicates that the 1A
resistance is constant, indepen-
This expression shows that if a potential difference of 1 V across a conductor causes a
dent of the applied voltage.
current of 1 A, the resistance of the conductor is 1 '. For example, if an electrical
appliance connected to a 120-V source of potential difference carries a current of 6 A,
its resistance is 20 '.
The inverse of conductivity is resistivity3 % :
Resistivity is the inverse of %" (27.10)
conductivity &
where % has the units ohm-meters (' ( m). Because R " !/&A, we can express the
resistance of a uniform block of material along the length ! as
Resistance of a uniform !
material along the length ! R"% (27.11)

2 This result follows from the definition of potential difference:

Vb $ Va " $ $
E(d s " E $!

dx " E !

3 Do not confuse resistivity % with mass density or charge density, for which the same symbol is used.
S ECTI O N 27.2 • Resistance 837


Resistivities and Temperature Coefficients of Resistivity
for Various Materials
27.5 Resistance and
Temperature Resistivity is property of a sub-
Material Resistivitya(' ( m) Coefficientb ![(!C)$1] stance, while resistance is a prop-
Silver 1.59 # 10$ 8 3.8 # 10$ 3
erty of an object. We have seen
similar pairs of variables before.
Copper 1.7 # 10$ 8 3.9 # 10$ 3
For example, density is a prop-
Gold 2.44 # 10$ 8 3.4 # 10$ 3
erty of a substance, while mass is
Aluminum 2.82 # 10$ 8 3.9 # 10$ 3 a property of an object. Equation
Tungsten 5.6 # 10$ 8 4.5 # 10$ 3 27.11 relates resistance to resistiv-
Iron 10 # 10$ 8 5.0 # 10$ 3 ity, and we have seen a previous
Platinum 11 # 10$ 8 3.92 # 10$ 3 equation (Equation 1.1) which
Lead 22 # 10$ 8 3.9 # 10$ 3 relates mass to density.
Nichromec 1.50 # 10$ 6 0.4 # 10$ 3
Carbon 3.5 # 10$ 5 $ 0.5 # 10$ 3
Germanium 0.46 $ 48 # 10$ 3
Silicon 640 $ 75 # 10$ 3
Glass 1010 to 1014
Hard rubber &1013
Sulfur 1015
Quartz (fused) 75 # 1016

a All values at 20°C.

b See Section 27.4.
c A nickel–chromium alloy commonly used in heating elements.

Every ohmic material has a characteristic resistivity that depends on the properties of
the material and on temperature. Additionally, as you can see from Equation 27.11, the
resistance of a sample depends on geometry as well as on resistivity. Table 27.1 gives
the resistivities of a variety of materials at 20°C. Note the enormous range, from very
low values for good conductors such as copper and silver, to very high values for good
insulators such as glass and rubber. An ideal conductor would have zero resistivity, and
an ideal insulator would have infinite resistivity.
Equation 27.11 shows that the resistance of a given cylindrical conductor such as a
wire is proportional to its length and inversely proportional to its cross-sectional area.
If the length of a wire is doubled, then its resistance doubles. If its cross-sectional area
is doubled, then its resistance decreases by one half. The situation is analogous to the
flow of a liquid through a pipe. As the pipe’s length is increased, the resistance to flow
increases. As the pipe’s cross-sectional area is increased, more liquid crosses a given
cross section of the pipe per unit time interval. Thus, more liquid flows for the same
pressure differential applied to the pipe, and the resistance to flow decreases.
Henry Leap and Jim Lehman

An assortment of resistors used in electrical circuits.

838 C HAPTE R 27 • Current and Resistance

Table 27.2
Color Coding for Resistors
Color Number Multiplier Tolerance

Black 0 1
Brown 1 101
Red 2 102
Orange 3 103
Yellow 4 104

Green 5 105
Blue 6 106
Figure 27.6 The colored bands on a resistor represent a code for Violet 7 107
determining resistance. The first two colors give the first two digits in the Gray 8 108
resistance value. The third color represents the power of ten for the
White 9 109
multiplier of the resistance value. The last color is the tolerance of the
resistance value. As an example, the four colors on the circled resistors are Gold 10$ 1 5%
red (" 2), black (" 0), orange (" 103), and gold (" 5%), and so the Silver 10$ 2 10%
resistance value is 20 # 103 ' " 20 k' with a tolerance value of 5% " 1 k'. Colorless 20%
(The values for the colors are from Table 27.2.)

Most electric circuits use circuit elements called resistors to control the current
level in the various parts of the circuit. Two common types of resistors are the composi-
tion resistor, which contains carbon, and the wire-wound resistor, which consists of a coil of
wire. Values of resistors in ohms are normally indicated by color-coding, as shown in
Figure 27.6 and Table 27.2.
Ohmic materials and devices have a linear current–potential difference relation-
ship over a broad range of applied potential differences (Fig. 27.7a). The slope of the
I-versus-!V curve in the linear region yields a value for 1/R. Nonohmic materials have
a nonlinear current–potential difference relationship. One common semiconducting
device that has nonlinear I-versus-!V characteristics is the junction diode (Fig. 27.7b).
The resistance of this device is low for currents in one direction (positive !V ) and
high for currents in the reverse direction (negative !V ). In fact, most modern
electronic devices, such as transistors, have nonlinear current–potential difference
relationships; their proper operation depends on the particular way in which they
violate Ohm’s law.

Quick Quiz 27.3 Suppose that a current-carrying ohmic metal wire has a
cross-sectional area that gradually becomes smaller from one end of the wire to the
other. The current must have the same value in each section of the wire so that charge
does not accumulate at any one point. How do the drift velocity and the resistance per


Slope = 1

!V !V

(a) (b)
Figure 27.7 (a) The current–potential difference curve for an ohmic material. The
curve is linear, and the slope is equal to the inverse of the resistance of the conductor.
(b) A nonlinear current–potential difference curve for a junction diode. This device
does not obey Ohm’s law.
S ECTI O N 27.2 • Resistance 839

unit length vary along the wire as the area becomes smaller? (a) The drift velocity and
resistance both increase. (b) The drift velocity and resistance both decrease. (c) The
drift velocity increases and the resistance decreases. (d) The drift velocity decreases
and the resistance increases.

Quick Quiz 27.4 A cylindrical wire has a radius r and length !. If both r and !
are doubled, the resistance of the wire (a) increases (b) decreases (c) remains the same.

Quick Quiz 27.5 In Figure 27.7b, as the applied voltage increases, the resis-
tance of the diode (a) increases (b) decreases (c) remains the same.

Example 27.2 The Resistance of a Conductor

Calculate the resistance of an aluminum cylinder that Similarly, for glass we find that
has a length of 10.0 cm and a cross-sectional area of
2.00 # 10$4 m2. Repeat the calculation for a cylinder of the
same dimensions and made of glass having a resistivity of
" (3.0 # 1010 '(m) " 2.000.100
# 10 m #
$4 2

3.0 # 1010 ' ( m.

" 1.5 # 1013 '
Solution From Equation 27.11 and Table 27.1, we can cal-
culate the resistance of the aluminum cylinder as follows: As you might guess from the large difference in resistivities,
the resistances of identically shaped cylinders of aluminum
" (2.82 # 10 $8 '(m) " 2.000.100
# 10 m #
$4 2
and glass differ widely. The resistance of the glass cylinder is
18 orders of magnitude greater than that of the aluminum
" 1.41 # 10 $5 '

Example 27.3 The Resistance of Nichrome Wire Interactive

(A) Calculate the resistance per unit length of a 22-gauge Solution Because a 1.0-m length of this wire has a resis-
Nichrome wire, which has a radius of 0.321 mm. tance of 4.6 ', Equation 27.8 gives

Solution The cross-sectional area of this wire is ∆V 10 V

I" " " 2.2 A
R 4.6 '
A " *r 2 " *(0.321 # 10 $3 m)2 " 3.24 # 10 $7 m2
Note from Table 27.1 that the resistivity of Nichrome wire is
The resistivity of Nichrome is 1.5 # 10$ 6 ' ( m (see about 100 times that of copper. A copper wire of the same
Table 27.1). Thus, we can use Equation 27.11 to find the radius would have a resistance per unit length of only
resistance per unit length: 0.052 '/m. A 1.0-m length of copper wire of the same
radius would carry the same current (2.2 A) with an applied
R % 1.5 # 10 $6 '(m
" " " 4.6 '/m potential difference of only 0.11 V.
! A 3.24 # 10 $7 m2
Because of its high resistivity and its resistance to
oxidation, Nichrome is often used for heating elements in
(B) If a potential difference of 10 V is maintained across a toasters, irons, and electric heaters.
1.0-m length of the Nichrome wire, what is the current in
the wire?

Explore the resistance of different materials at the Interactive Worked Example link at http://www.pse6.com.

Example 27.4 The Radial Resistance of a Coaxial Cable

Coaxial cables are used extensively for cable television and silicon, in the radial direction, is unwanted. (The cable is
other electronic applications. A coaxial cable consists of designed to conduct current along its length—this is not
two concentric cylindrical conductors. The region the current we are considering here.) The radius of the
between the conductors is completely filled with silicon, as inner conductor is a " 0.500 cm, the radius of the outer
shown in Figure 27.8a, and current leakage through the one is b " 1.75 cm, and the length is L " 15.0 cm.
840 C HAPTE R 27 • Current and Resistance

dr Current

a r

Inner Outer
conductor conductor End view
(a) (b)
Figure 27.8 (Example 27.4) A coaxial cable. (a) Silicon fills the gap between the two
conductors. (b) End view, showing current leakage.

Calculate the resistance of the silicon between the two Substituting in the values given, and using % " 640 ' ( m for
conductors. silicon, we obtain

Solution Conceptualize by imagining two currents, as

suggested in the text of the problem. The desired current is
640 '(m
2*(0.150 m)
ln " 0.500 cm #
1.75 cm
" 851 '

along the cable, carried within the conductors. The

To finalize this problem, let us compare this resistance to
undesired current corresponds to charge leakage through
that of the inner conductor of the cable along the 15.0-cm
the silicon and its direction is radial. Because we know the
length. Assuming that the conductor is made of copper, we
resistivity and the geometry of the silicon, we categorize this
as a problem in which we find the resistance of the silicon

" *(5.000.150 #
from these parameters, using Equation 27.11. Because the ! m
area through which the charges pass depends on the radial R"% " (1.7 # 10 $8 '(m)
A # 10$3 m)2
position, we must use integral calculus to determine the
" 3.2 # 10 $5 '
To analyze the problem, we divide the silicon into con- This resistance is much smaller than the radial resistance. As
centric elements of infinitesimal thickness dr (Fig. 27.8b). a consequence, almost all of the current corresponds to
We start by using the differential form of Equation 27.11, charge moving along the length of the cable, with a very
replacing ! with r for the distance variable: dR " % dr/A, small fraction leaking in the radial direction.
where dR is the resistance of an element of silicon of
thickness dr and surface area A. In this example, we take as What If? Suppose the coaxial cable is enlarged to twice the
our representative concentric element a hollow silicon cylin- overall diameter with two possibilities: (1) the ratio b/a is
der of radius r, thickness dr, and length L, as in Figure 27.8. held fixed, or (2) the difference b " a is held fixed. For which
Any charge that passes from the inner conductor to the possibility does the leakage current between the inner and
outer one must pass radially through this concentric ele- outer conductors increase when the voltage is applied
ment, and the area through which this charge passes is between the two conductors?
A " 2*rL. (This is the curved surface area—circumference
multiplied by length—of our hollow silicon cylinder of Answer In order for the current to increase, the resistance
thickness dr.) Hence, we can write the resistance of our must decrease. For possibility (1), in which b/a is held fixed,
hollow cylinder of silicon as Equation (1) tells us that the resistance is unaffected. For
% possibility (2), we do not have an equation involving the dif-
dR " dr ference b $ a to inspect. Looking at Figure 27.8b, however,
we see that increasing b and a while holding the voltage
Because we wish to know the total resistance across the constant results in charge flowing through the same
entire thickness of the silicon, we must integrate this expres- thickness of silicon but through a larger overall area perpen-
sion from r " a to r " b: dicular to the flow. This larger area will result in lower resis-
tance and a higher current.

(1) R" $a
dR "
b dr
ln " ab #