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Movement of electric charge carriers. In a wire, electric current is a flow of electrons that have been dislodged from atoms and is a measure of the quantity of electrical charge passing any point of the wire per unit time. Current in gases and liquids generally consists of a flow of positive ions in one direction together with a flow of negative ions in the opposite direction. Conventionally, the direction of electric current is that of the flow of the positive ions. In alternating current (AC) the motion of the charges is periodically reversed; in direct current (DC) it is not. A common unit of current is the ampere, a flow of one coulomb of charge per second, or 6.24 1018 electrons per second.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on electric current, visit Britannica.com.