Can electricity be conducted through moving water?

02 November 2008

Question

Can you conduct electricity up a continuous flow of moving water? We’ve all heard the idea of someone peeing on the underground and getting electrocuted.

Answer

Dave - You certainly can conduct electricity in a liquid. Whether it's going to move fast enough to overwhelm the flow is basically you need a voltage. If you're trying to make current flow opposite to the liquid you need more voltage to get the same current because there's going to be more resistance. It's effectively moving a lot faster. You certainly can get an electric current moving in a moving liquid. Chris - How fast does an electric current flow through a liquid?

Dave - Normally in a metal it's very slowly because you've got an awful lot of carriers. On average it's moving a few millimetres a second. Chris - The effect is instantaneous because it's like Newton's cradle: you put charge in at one end and it knocks everything along and charge comes out the other end. Dave - The actual signal is moving at near the speed of light. In a liquid you should certainly get a Newton's cradle push-along. You might need a little more voltage to get the same current though.

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