Science Questions

Do electric fences work like tasers?

Sun, 19th Apr 2009

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Question

Succubus Huntress, Second Life asked:

When you touch an electric fence and get a shock; if you touch a mate they also get a shock. Why not a taser?

Answer

Chris - I think itís in the answer you gave, Dave.  The way a taser works is to put two probes with very high electrical potential which means thereís a big potential difference between the two probes.  Most of the current in the taser is flowing from one probe to the other probe.  But the fence works slightly differently in that itís putting a wire (or a cluster of wires) at a very high potential relative to the ground so that animals that brush against the fence feel a current flowing from the fence, through them to ground.  Thatís uncomfortable and it puts them off. 

If you put yourself in the position of that animal you are holding onto someone and you touch the fence then both you and the person youíre holding onto have a connection to ground.  Youíre offering a path to ground for the electricity flowing through the electric fence.  Therefore there will be a current.  Unlike the taser which has got the two probes, each of them with a higher amount of potential relative to one another.  Itís the ground that is the low potential and the fence that is the higher potential.  Itís a slightly different situation.

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