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Relevant Information

My magic system consists of a fluid (called aura) emitted from the body whose position can be telekinetically controlled (manipulation), whose physical properties can be altered (transformation), and which can be converted into other forms of energy (transmutation).

Manipulation lets you move aura around with your mind, allowing you to change its position and shape.

Transformation lets you alter physical (but not chemical or atomic) properties, such as changing aura from its natural liquid state to a solid or a gas, or altering things like opacity, material strength, hardness, etc. The one transformation that is particularly relevant to this question is the ability to alter the electrical conductivity of your aura.

Transmutation lets you convert a very small portion of your aura's mass energy into other particles, particularly photons or electrons. This is a continuous rather than instantaneous process, with your output being expressed in watts.

What I'm currently trying to work out is the mechanics of the transmutation of electricity. This works by producing electrons within a volume of your aura (called the transmutative volume), and therefore giving that volume a negative electric charge.

The Question

How could I use this ability to create a basic portable circuit and e.g power a torch? This would look like a regular electrical circuit, but with the power source being the negatively charged transmutative volume, rather than a battery or capacitor.

My own educated guess

As I understand it electricity flows through a circuit because a battery or capacitor has both a positive and negative side, which creates a voltage potential that causes electrons to flow from the negative to the positive side. With the transmutative volume however, only a negative charge is produced, meaning there is no corresponding positive side for electrons to flow to. I imagine that you could create a basic capacitor, with the 'positive' plate being a neutrally charged piece of metal, and the negative plate being the transmutative volume, as there will still be a potential difference between the two plates despite the lack of a positive charge. I imagine that, so long as you continue to produce a negative charge in the transmutative volume, electricity will continue to flow to the 'positive' (merely less negative) plate. But would that not eventually result in the entire circuit holding a dangerous charge, as energy is continuously added but not released? Would the only solution be to ground the circuit occasionally to allow the charge to flow away? Or am I thinking about it the wrong way?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented May 20, 2023 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ For reference, the capacitance of the Earth (as a spherical capacitor) is about 710 μF. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented May 21, 2023 at 17:10

2 Answers 2

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Creating a charge is not creating a flow

First, when converting matter to energy, use really, really tiny amounts. E=mc^2 means that a tiny amount of matter translates to a very big "boom!"

Second, creating a charge on an object is not the same as creating a regulated source of electrical current. As noted in AlexP's comment, it does not matter whether the object is conductive or not, it can still hold a charge. Whether it will continue to hold that charge or whether it will discharge it is governed at short ranges by Paschen's law.

This type of discharge is useful for arc welding, not so much for powering a conventional light bulb. However, one discharge will give one arc, which may be quite destructive depending on the energies involved (see lightning for details). In order to do arc welding in the same way that a normal rig does, charge would need to be created in a frequent cycle rather than in one big hit.

Converting one or more arcs into a regulated DC or AC current that could be used to power commercial electric products would require a non-trivial amount of relatively non-standard electrical hardware - nothing that a trained electrician or electrical engineer could not build, but probably more complicated than an aura could be shaped into. Given that the question specifies that aura mass-energy can be converted into either electrical charge or light, it would be easier to continually transmute a miniscule amount of aura into light and surround the point of light with solar cells in order to power electrical devices.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the constructive answer $\endgroup$
    – M S
    Commented May 20, 2023 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding your third and fourth paragraphs, would a setup like this not cause DC current to flow from the transmutative volume to the neutral piece of metal, until the charge held in each was equal? I'm pretty sure current would drop as the two pieces became more and more equal in charge, but could that not be offset by consistently producing an electric charge in the transmutative volume? $\endgroup$
    – M S
    Commented May 20, 2023 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm... seems logical, but I have the feeling that there's something that I'm missing. Hopefully someone with more knowledge than me will weigh in. Note that it would require that the magic user is constantly transmuting exactly the right amount of matter in order to power the lightbulb or other device without blowing it up. My impression of the magic use was that transmutaion was instantaneous rather than continuous. $\endgroup$ Commented May 20, 2023 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ I'll specify in my post, but transmutation is a continuous process, with charge or photons (depending on whether its electrosynthesis or heliosynthesis) appearing equally distributed throughout the volume. A person's output can be expressed in watts $\endgroup$
    – M S
    Commented May 20, 2023 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't what I drew actually basically a capacitor? I would just need put the red and blue parts together in an insulated box, with a dielectric separating them. Side note: I don't really know what a dielectric is, but I know from google that you put one inbetween the plates of a capacitor. $\endgroup$
    – M S
    Commented May 20, 2023 at 15:02
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It's impossible to just create electrons

The very premise is first class Technobollocks and absolutely impossible if you want to have it at all: nothing ever generates a charge. You can't. You can only separate charges. That is a basic principle.

On a quantum physics layer, electrons are only made if you can balance out the whole calculation, and likewise, electrons can only be destroyed by doing the reverse. For example, taking a Neutron (up-down-down quarks, charge: 0, spin 0.5, ...) and splitting it into an electron (Lepton, charge -1, spin 0.5) and a proton (up-up-down quarks, charge 1, spin 0.5) works, but to balance the stuff out we also need an anti-electron-neutrino so we have an anti-Lepton for the Lepton. That split is called beta radiation by the way.

The reverse works to: cramming an electron into a proton will result in a neutron and an electron-neutrino, or we have to cram an anti-electron-neutrino into the proton and electron to go out with the same number of quarks and leptons on either side.

As a direct result, whenever you try to charge an item with electrons, some other item will end up with a lack of electrons, and thus be positively charged. It doesn't need to be at the same place, but somewhere needs to be a positive charge for each negative charge.

That's electrostatic and electrodynamic

Separating charges and the behavior of charged items is a whole field of physics. Electrostatic and electrodynamic. Usually, it's a 4th-semester class in Europe.

Electrodynamics 401

Electrons flow from places they have accumulated (for example by using a coil and magnet to impart a flow to one end of the wire or a chemical reaction) to those places that lack electrons - which are positively charged compared to that spot. If no place is positively charged compared to the negative charged spot they are at, the electrons can not flow.

The moment charges start to equalize, flow happens. However, if all that is available compared to the charged item is a perfectly balanced item, then the charge just spreads over the bigger surface, which is favorable because the charge wants to separate on as big a surface as possible.

Only the moment that an item lacking electrons comes into contact with the charged item the charge truly dissipates by the atoms lacking electrons regaining theirs.

The charged item in a circuit

Let's take a capacitor and charge it: the left half gets the electrons from the right. The resulting item has a potential difference of $U$, the left side is charged with $-q$ and the right side with $q$.

Now, we connect the right side, which lacks electrons, to the ground. Because the ground is so massive, and the plate lacks elections, the charges equalize. The right plate ends with a charge of very close to 0, and the ground - because it is so ginormous - is also at a charge of very close to 0.

Our potential difference is now not between a charge of $q$ and $-q$, but $0$ and $-q$, and as a result the potential difference is $0.5 U$. By only imparting a charge on one side and taking the electrons from a spot far-far-away out of the circuit, you just halved the voltage between the poles! Great, by not pushing the charges from the positive pole to the negative pole you just emptied your "battery" by about half...

Silly note about batteries

Waitaminute... not half: you did make them entirely empty: A typical AA battery has 1.5V difference between the poles. It allows you to operate until the difference between the poles is about 1V. By only providing the same amount of charge on the one pole and not taking them away from the other pole you only get half the voltage, so an item is not even operational with 0.75V.

Simple fix

To get the magic back in line, the magic needs to keep the number of quarks and bosons the same. As a result, Magic that creates charge, magically moves electrons from one place to where you need it. Usually, the source of electrons will be the planet you stand on, where the tiny positive charge (per surface) will be non measurable.

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  • $\begingroup$ Making a fuss about the fact that my magic system doesn't exactly align with reality is not a frame challenge. If my magic aligned exactly with reality, it would not exist $\endgroup$
    – M S
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ @MS You are hereby on notice that I feel like you are harassing me. You were the one that wanted science-based magic, which is the absolute hardest to pull off. I have pointed out the one flaw in this part of your magic system, which is that your system creating only electrons from nothing, and the solution to that is even delivered: your magic should just separate charges. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 8:39
  • $\begingroup$ If you both don't chill down you will be forced to do so $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 9:31

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