Lectures on Physics has been derived from Benjamin Crowell's Light and Matter series of free introductory textbooks on physics. See the editorial for more information....

A charged balloon

Question: A charged balloon falls to the ground, and its charge begins leaking off to the Earth. Suppose that the charge on the balloon is given by q=ae -bt. Find the current as a function of time, and interpret the answer.

Solution: Taking the derivative, we have

The exponential function approaches zero as the exponent gets more and more negative. This means that both the charge and the current are decreasing in magnitude with time. It makes sense that the charge approaches zero, since the balloon is losing its charge. It also makes sense that the current is decreasing in magnitude, since charge cannot flow at the same rate forever without overshooting zero.

Last Update: 2009-06-21