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coulomb

The coulomb (symbolized C) is the standard unit of electric charge in the International System of Units (SI). It is a dimensionless quantity, sharing this aspect with the mole. A quantity of 1 C is equal to approximately 6.24 x 1018, or 6.24 quintillion.

In terms of SI base units, the coulomb is the equivalent of one ampere-second. Conversely, an electric current of A represents 1 C of unit electric charge carriers flowing past a specific point in 1 s. The unit electric charge is the amount of charge contained in a single electron. Thus, 6.24 x 1018 electrons have 1 C of charge. This is also true of 6.24 x 1018 positrons or 6.24 x 1018 protons, although these two types of particle carry charge of opposite polarity to that of the electron.

The force with which two electrically charged bodies attract or repel one another depends on the product of the charges (in coulombs) in both objects, and also on the distance between the objects. If the polarities are the same (negative/negative or positive/positive), the so-called coulomb force is repulsive; if the polarities are opposite (negative/positive or positive/negative), the force is attractive. For any two charged bodies, the coulomb force decreases in proportion to the square of the distance between their charge centers.

This was last updated in September 2005

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