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I've known that AC "changes direction", or "alternates polarity", but I was wondering what that looks like on the electron level. Is it the same physical electrons being pushed back and forth doing the work, like a saw, vs DC which is a steady flow of new electrons doing their work and continuing on their merry way?

If this is so, is this what explains the skin effect in AC? Do these "sawing" electrons drift outward with each "pass"?
 

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Electrons in an AC circuit more or less just shimmy back and forth, changing direction 120 times a second. The skin effect comes from the induced back emf pushing the applied current towards the outer part of the conductor
 

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I don't know exactly what causes it, that's a good question. But I do know that as a rule-of-thumb, it doesn't begin to take affect until you pass 1000MCM, after that it begins to make sense to use tubular bus where possible.
 
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