Difference between Higher potential and lower potential

Before getting into the topic, we have to keep two points in mind.1. Conventional Current flow. (The way Current is said to flow historically)
2. ‎Actual current flow. (The way Current actually flows).

Difference between Higher potential and lower potential

By definition, current is the flow of charges, basically electrons. It is said to flow from a point of higher potential to lower potential.

What is higher potential and lower potential?

Before the discovery of atomic structure, scientists believed that positive charge flow from a point where it is more to a point where it is less.The point where they said there are more positive charges and called it as higher potential.

The point where there are more negative charges or no charge is considered as lower potential.

Later after the exploration of atomic structure, scientists realized that it is electrons (negatively charged particles), that flows and the actual higher potential is the electron-rich negative.

So, if we consider a battery, decades ago it was believed that there are more positive charges at the positive terminal and it moves towards the flow of current. But now we know, negatively charged electrons move from the negative terminal are attracted by the positively charged ions at the positive terminal of the battery and move towards it.


  • The higher potential is the point of higher concentration of charges and lower potential is the point with a lesser concentration of charges.
  • Historically scientists believed that the positive charge is the one that flows. Hence considered the point which is more positive as a higher potential point (Conventional current flow)
  • Later, after the exploration of atomic structure, it was concluded that electrons that are negatively charged are the one that flows and hence the point which is more negative is considered higher potential (Actual current flow).
  • But still, physicists say the direction of current flow is from positive point to the negative point and consider the positive point as the higher potential, while vice versa is the flow of electrons.

Also read: Direction of current flow

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. George

    I would like to pose a question here concerning High and Low potential with regard to Kirchhoff laws. Will working with Kirchhoff laws, applying the electron flow invalidate my circuit analysis /

    1. Electrical Classroom

      Applying the electron flow will not invalidate your analysis. But, you need to consider electron flow in each loop.

  2. Nalia

    hi! I was wondering how to apply this with a galvanic cell. Is it fair to say the cathode then is at higher potential? does this also apply to an electrochemical cell?

    1. Electrical Classroom

      Yes, you can say so. Our conventions have taught us to say otherwise.

  3. Honey

    So, which charge (nature) is concentrated at higher potential of the cell?

    1. Electrical Classroom

      Negatively charged electrons.

  4. ken

    So, the considered point here now is that higher potential is in the negative terminal of the battery and not the positive terminal? If so, why are some pictures still using the positive terminal as the highest potential?

    1. Electrical Classroom

      That is because they are following conventional current flow.

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