at what point does electricity stop in water?


Obviously if we put live electricity in the sea, the whole ocean wouldn’t then become dangerous with it. At what point does the electricity stop? What stops it?

In: 367

Nothing stops it. Electricity wants to go back to its source. If you put a live wire in the water the electricity will flow back through the water and then the ground to the neutral point of the transformer providing the power. It won’t just go out looking to electrocute people. You’re only in danger if you’re in the way.

Depends on how you “put electricity” in.

When lightning hits the ocean, it can more or less flow in any direction through the water, and the power dissipates accordingly.

Just think of it expanding (hemi)spherically from the point it hits: the further it gets, the larger the area it covers becomes. The larger the area gets, the smaller the current per area becomes, until it is not noticeable any more.

Electricity is the flow of electrons. Electrons want to be in balance with protons. Electricity flows because the electrons are trying to get in balance and it stops once they are. Lightning occurs because a cloud accumulates too many electrons. Air is mostly empty space. Water and earth are dense and contain many protons (and electrons). After the lightning (electrons) jumps to the ground, they spread out among all those protons.

I’m not sure if this relates to OP’s question but people have been electrocuted in ponds due to faulty pond pumps. And electric barriers are used to keep invasive fish species out of certain waterways.

Electricity is the overall flow of little things called electrons. Imagine them as little billiard balls that can flow through things quite well because they are really tiny. An important property of these balls however, is something called an electric charge. An electron has a negative one and a proton has a positive one. Depending on the specific case, there can be many grouped charges, like when electrons build up in lightning, or dispersed throughout like in everyday materials. It can also flow through things quite well, depending on the environment and how well they’re held in place “normally”.

In the case of water, let’s say it’s coming from a cloud in the sky as in lightning. You can picture it as the cloud holding a bucket of electrons and suddenly pouring out once it reaches its maximum limit. These balls coming crashing down at a high speed and strike the water. At that instant, the balls crash down and possibly causing the water to evaporate, dissociate, and ionize. You can picture this as billiard balls violently crashing down into a ball pit. They will crash into things, causing all sorts of mess.

After the initial strike, the balls tend to flow away from one another because like-charges repel via the “Coloumb force”. This really just means that they don’t like to be together unless there are conditions that favour it, like the ones that occur when building up in the clouds. Once they are in a relatively “free” environment in water, they will disperse around that area, preferring to go in directions where there are less electrons around. If the water is really shallow, this is probably just going to be the ground. If it’s deeper, like the ocean, it will probably take a longer while before it reaches “ground”, or any kind of electrical sink, which acts to “take in” all of the extra charge.

The electrons eventually “stop” or at least, in a manner that we count as electricity, when they crash into something, react with something, or get absorbed into something. The electricity requires something to interact with it in order to “stop” or disperse effectively. It will stop acting as the “electricity” that we consider as a consistent current (the stream of balls falling) soon after the strike, since the balls will find themselves running away from each other very quickly, crashing into things as they go.