Electromotive force (emf)
Bailey, A. Earle Formerly, Electrical Science Division, National Physical Laboratory, London, United Kingdom.
- Open-circuit emf
- Types of emf
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
A measure of the strength of a source of electrical energy. The term is often shortened to emf. It is not, of course, a force in the usual mechanical sense (and for this reason has sometimes been called electromotance), but it is a conveniently descriptive term for the agency which drives current through an electric circuit. In the simple case of a direct current I (measured in amperes) flowing through a resistor R (in ohms), Ohm's law states that there will be a voltage drop (or potential difference) of V = IR (in volts) across the resistor. To cause this current to flow requires a source with emf (also measured in volts) E = V. More generally, Kirchhoff's voltage law states that the sum of the source emf's taken around any closed path in an electric circuit is equal to the sum of the voltage drops. This is equivalent to the statement that the total emf in a closed circuit is equal to the line integral of the electric field strength around the circuit. See also: Electric current; Electric field; Electrical resistance; Ohm's law
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