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The unit of electric charge is the Coulomb (abbreviated C). Ordinary matter is made up of atoms which have positively charged nuclei and negatively charged electrons surrounding them. Charge is quantized as a multiple of the electron or proton charge: 1.602 × 10-19 C.

The influence of charges is characterized in terms of the forces between them (Coulomb's law) and the electric field and voltage produced by them.

An isolated single charge can be called an "electric monopole". Equal positive and negative charges placed close to each other constitute an electric dipole. Two oppositely directed dipoles close to each other are called an electric quadrupole. You can continue this process to any number of poles, but dipoles and quadrupoles are mentioned here because they find significant application in physical phenomena.

One of the fundamental symmetries of nature is the conservation of electric charge. No known physical process produces a net change in electric charge.