Ohm's law states that the current through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the potential difference across the two points. Introducing the constant of proportionality, the resistance,[1] one arrives at the usual mathematical equation that describes this relationship:[2]

I = \frac{V}{R}

where I is the current through the conductor in units of amperes, V is the potential difference measured across the conductor in units of volts, and R is the resistance of the conductor in units of ohms. More specifically, Ohm's law states that the R in this relation is constant, independent of the current.[3]

The law was named after the German physicist Georg Ohm, who, in a treatise published in 1827, described measurements of applied voltage and current through simple electrical circuits containing various lengths of wire. He presented a slightly more complex equation than the one above (see History section below) to explain his experimental results. The above equation is the modern form of Ohm's law.

In physics, the term Ohm's law is also used to refer to various generalizations of the law originally formulated by Ohm. The simplest example of this is:

\mathbf{J} = \sigma \mathbf{E},

where J is the current density at a given location in a resistive material, E is the electric field at that location, and σ is a material dependent parameter called the conductivity. This reformulation of Ohm's law is due to Gustav Kirchhoff.[4]

Contents

1 History 2 Scope 3 Microscopic origins 4 Hydraulic analogy 5 Circuit analysis 5.1 Resistive circuits 5.2 Reactive circuits with time-varying signals 5.3 Linear approximations 6 Temperature effects 7 Relation to heat conductions 8 Other versions 8.1 Magnetic effects 9 See also 10 References 11 External links

History

In January 1781, before Georg Ohm's work, Henry Cavendish experimented with Leyden jars and glass tubes of varying diameter and length filled with salt solution. He measured the current by noting how strong a shock he felt as he completed the circuit with his body. Cavendish wrote that the "velocity" (current) varied directly as the "degree of electrification" (voltage). He did not communicate his results to other scientists at the time,[5] and his results were unknown until Maxwell published them in 1879.[6]

Ohm did his work on resistance in the years 1825 and 1826, and published his results in 1827 as the book Die galvanische Kette, mathematisch bearbeitet (The galvanic circuit investigated mathematically).[7] He drew considerable inspiration from Fourier's work on heat conduction in the theoretical explanation of his work. For experiments, he initially used voltaic piles, but later used a thermocouple as this provided a more stable voltage source in terms of internal resistance and constant potential difference. He used a galvanometer to measure current, and knew that the voltage between the thermocouple terminals was proportional to the junction temperature. He then added test wires of varying length, diameter, and material to complete the circuit. He found that his data could be modeled through the equation

x = \frac{a}{b + l},

where x was the reading from the galvanometer, l was the length of the test conductor, a depended only on the thermocouple junction temperature, and b was a constant of the entire setup. From this, Ohm determined his law of proportionality and published his results.

Ohm's law was probably the most important of the early quantitative descriptions of the physics of electricity. We consider it almost obvious today. When Ohm first published his work, this was not the case; critics reacted to his treatment of the subject with hostility. They called his work a "web of naked fancies"[8] and the German Minister of Education proclaimed that "a professor who preached such heresies was unworthy to…