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Quantity of electricity that flows in electric currents or that accumulates on the surfaces of dissimilar nonmetallic substances that are rubbed together briskly. It occurs in discrete natural units, equal to the charge of an electron or proton. It cannot be created or destroyed. Charge can be positive or negative; one positive charge can combine with one negative charge, and the result is a net charge of zero. Two objects that have an excess of the same type of charge repel each other, while two objects with an excess of opposite charge attract each other. The unit of charge is the coulomb, which consists of 6.24 1018 natural units of electric charge.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on electric charge, visit Britannica.com.