What is Drift Velocity

Discover the world of drift velocity in physics and its impact on charged particles in conductors. Learn how to calculate drift velocity and explore examples of its application in electronic devices.


Drift velocity is a phenomenon in physics that describes the average velocity attained by charged particles in a conductor when an electric field is applied.


Drift velocity is the net velocity of charged particles, such as electrons, moving in a conductor in response to an electric field. It is typically much lower than the speed of individual electrons due to frequent collisions with lattice ions, impurities, and other electrons.

Factors affecting Drift Velocity

  • Electric field strength
  • Charge of the particle
  • Cross-sectional area of the conductor
  • Number density of charge carriers


The drift velocity of charged particles can be calculated using the formula: Vd = I / nAq, where Vd is drift velocity, I is current, n is charge carrier density, A is cross-sectional area, and q is charge.


One common example of drift velocity is in a simple circuit where electrons flow through a wire in response to an electric potential. Another example is the movement of charge carriers in a semiconductor material.

Case Studies

In electronic devices, understanding drift velocity is crucial for designing efficient circuits. For instance, in a semiconductor device like a transistor, controlling the drift velocity of electrons is essential for proper functioning.


According to research, the drift velocity of electrons in copper wire is typically on the order of millimeters per second, highlighting the slow pace at which charged particles move in a conductor.


Drift velocity plays a significant role in the movement of charged particles in a conductor under the influence of an electric field. Understanding this concept is essential for various applications in electronics and material science.

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