Maxwell’s Equations

Matt Hansen May 20, 2004


. . . . . Magnetism . . . . . . . . . . .Contents 1 Introduction 2 The 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Maxwell’s Equations . . . . . . . Moving charges . 4. . . . . . . . . 11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4. . . . . . . . Vector operations Calculus . . . . . . . . . . .5 2. . . . . . . . . . . . 3 3 3 4 4 5 6 6 7 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 2. . . . . . . . .4 Faraday’s law . . . . . . . . . . 4. . . . . . . Flux .3 Gauss’ law for magnetism 4. . . 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 History 4 Maxwell’s Equations 4. . . . . . . 5 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 2. . . . . . . . . .3 2. . . . . 13 14 . . . 2 . . . . . . . .2 2. . . .2 Gauss’ law for electricity . . . . . . . . . . .6 basics Static charges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 Ampere-Maxwell law . . . . . . . .

As children are taught in grade school. chosen rather arbitrarily to be the charge carried by 6. but rather attract. it simply means the charges do not repel. k has units of (N · m2 ) / (C 2 ). 1 q1 · q2 (1) FE = 4π 0 r2 where FE is obviously force due to charges. but a positive and negative charge will attract each other. However. expressed in 4π 0 terms of 0 . likes repel. 0 is a constant called the electric permittivity of free space.” This applies to both magnets and to charges. does not move until it is given the chance to “escape” to the ground. The force of this repulsion is given by Coulomb’s Law. sometimes with a subscript like q1 or qenc . Coulomb’s Law is remarkably similar to the force of gravitational 3 . 2 2. Amounts of charge are measured in coulombs. which happens only if q1 and q2 have different signs.1 Introduction If asked. two negative charges will repel each other. 1 is a constant. The symbol for charge in equations is q. most people outside a physics department would not be able to identify Maxwell’s equations. but it is expressed that funny way for historical reasons that will become clearer later. It may seem arbitary to express k in terms of π. nor would they be able to state that they dealt with electricity and magnetism. also known as k or Coulomb’s constant. abbreviated C. If FE is negative. 1C is an extraordinary amount of charge. it is necessary to understand some basic things about electricity and magnetism first. Static electricity is easy to understand. so much so that people use devices that function off the principles in Maxwell’s equations every day without even knowing it. “opposites attract. in that it is just a charge which. as will two positive charges. Maxwell’s equations have many very important implications in the life of a modern person.41418 · 1018 electrons.1 The basics Static charges In order to understand Maxwell’s equations. as its name implies. and r is the distance seperating these charges.

fields move away from a positive charge and toward a negative charge. Every point in space has an electric potential.2 Moving charges Imagine that charge was flowing through a conductor at the rate of 1C per second. abbreviated V . imagine taking a small positive test charge q and using it to “probe” the force caused by some larger charge Q. abbreviated amp. 2. The 4 . they are usually expressed in volts per meter. g. and is measured in Joules. and k is replaced with a new constant. or A.3 Magnetism Ancient Greeks and Chinese discovered that certain types of rock. The units on E are Newtons per coulomb. This is defined as a current of one ampere. The symbol for amps in an equation is I. which is the same other than that charge is replaced by mass. From basic physics. but is not as good if a third charge enters the problem. Voltage is a measure of electric potential . That is useful for finding the attraction or repulsion between two charges.attraction. called loadstones. but are not usually expressed like this. That is equivalent to 1V = N · m/C. we will have a number that represents the strength of the electric field. had mysterious properties which they could not explain. and the units are equivalent. work is defined as force times the distance moved perpendicular to the direction of the force: W = F × D. 1J of work will be done. so 1N/C = 1V /m. by dividing out charge q. To understand electric fields. it is useful to define electric fields. so the definition of a volt. with 1J being a force of one Newton applied over a distance of one meter: 1J = N · m. Then. Electric fields are measured in Newtons per coulomb. Joules are abbreviated J and are a measurement of energy. denoted E: E= 1 Q FE = q 4π 0 r2 (2) Because electric field point in the direction a positive test charge would move. Because of this. 2. is 1V = 1J/C. If a charge of 1C is moved over a potential difference of 1V . with the general convention that a point infinitely far away from a charge has an electric potential of zero.the amount of potential energy available per unit charge.

denoted |V |. which makes sense. y. Earth’s magnetic field is a bit less than 1G. A unit vector is a vector with a magnitude of one. z . A × B produces a vector of magnitude |A||B| sin θ in the direction perpendicular to both A and B. A vector that is said to be normal to a plain is simply a vector perpendicular to the plain. a y. the right hand rule is adopted to determine a unique solution. make a “gun” and point the index finger of the right hand in the direction of A and the middle finger of the right hand in the direction of B. A × B = B × A. There are two defined types of vector multiplication: the dot product and the cross product. The other form of vector multiplication is the cross product. seperated by 180 degrees. magnetic fields. the thumb points in the direction of A × B. The magnitude of a vector alone. To get a feeling for this. then vector magnitudes can be found by |V | = Vx2 + Vy2 + Vz2 . and when tied to a string and hung. A × B = −B × A. A vector represents a magnitude (length). Vector subtraction has a similar definition. 5 . labelled north and south. with 1T = 104 G. but it is necessary to understand both basic vector operations and some calculus. is a scalar quantity representing the length of the projection of A onto B when their tails coincide. Magnetic field strength is measured in Gauss (G) or Tesla (T ). Since there are two solutions to this. The dot product. Magnets have two poles. Vector addition is defined as A + B = Ax + Bx . largely analogous to electric fields. would always point the same direction [2]. If Vx is defined as the x component of V . and a z. just like charges. Az + Bz . and direction. The north and south poles of two magnets will attract each other. written x. flow by convention from the north pole to the south pole. To apply the right hand rule. without direction. A vector is made up of three components: an x. is called a scalar. the dot product is usually calculated with A · B = |A||B| cos θ where θ is the smallest angle between A and B. Instead. but the north and north poles or the south and south poles will repel. and Vy and Vz are defined similarly. Because of the right hand rule. pointing outward if the plain is part of a closed surface. Mathematically. and discovered some of the many properties of magnets that we are familiar with today.4 Vector operations would attract small bits of iron. Ay + By . 2. Later scientists figured out that these rocks were magnets. this is going to get rather complex rather fast. written A · B.

The dx indicates that we are multiplying the value of f(x) at each value of x by some infinitely small value dx to find the area of some infinitely small rectangle of height f (x) and width dx. Electric flux. which is placed in space. electric and magnetic flux. x. this would be equivalent to the slope of the line drawn tangent to the graph at any given time. Since that definition is confusing. which is denoted . Let dA be a vector normal to a closed surface (such as a sphere). a real discussion of Calculus would take many pages. If no limits are specified. φE . is defined as φB = closed surface B · dA. a mathematical one might make more sense. Also.5 Calculus The derivative of a changing quantity is defined as the instantaneous rate at which it is changing. The b integral of the function f (x) between a and b would be written a f (x)dx. are defined as the amount of “flow” of the electric (or magnetic) field through a certain amount of area. The derivative of a quantity x with respect to time t d dx or. which is actually the exact opposite of a derivative. the integral gives a function which can be used to find the value of an equivalent integral with limits. φB . and adding the areas of all such rectangles in the interval [a. is defined as φE = E · dA. note that x d d f (t)dt = f (x) dx = f (x). b] to find the area under the curve of f (x) between a and b. written φE and φB respectively (B is the letter used for magnetic fields). If the quantity were graphed with respect to time.2.6 Flux Finally. The integral of a function or quantity is written dt dt is the same as taking the sum of the given quantity over all values in the range specified. is simply the closed surface integral over all regions on the closed surface. Remember that an integral is the sum of all of many very tiny contributions. equivalently. The closed surface integral. and that a derivative is the instantaneous rate of change of a quantity. While that may not be the most coherent definition. dx 0 dx 2. and magnetic flux. rather than just giving a value. closed surface 6 .

which was the first time anyone had realized that electricity and magnetism are connected [3]. Ampere also found a connection between magnetic fields and current flowing through a wire. Maxwell’s equations were later simplified into four differential equations by Heaviside using vectors. Faraday. relating the strength of a magnetic field to the current flowing through a wire and the distance from the wire: dB = µ0 i × r 4π r3 (3) During the next fifty years. 7 . Ampere also did his first important work in 1820. In 1800. and Ampere. Biot and Savart developed what came to be known as the Biot-Savart Law. and magnetic flux to magnetic charge. and in 1820 Oersted noted that a compass was deflected by a wire with current flowing through it. Volta created the first battery. this is now known as displacement current and represented the final piece in the laws of electricity and magnetism. the field changed for good (no pun intended). Coulomb developed equipment that experimentally confirmed what came to be known as Coulomb’s law (1) [3]. When Maxwell entered the picture in 1864. advancements began taking place in the fields of electricity and magnetism that led to the modern theories. In 1785. forming the four laws known collectively today as “Maxwell’s equations” [1]. in terms of twenty equations and twenty variables.3 History Near the end of the eighteenth century. and Faraday related induced voltage to changing magnetic fields. Maxwell formulated equations representing the observations of Gauss. Maxwell determined that there was a missing term and worked out what it should be. all of the “big names” made breakthroughs in the field and developed the equations that are used today. Gauss related electric flux to electric charge. He also noticed that there was a logical inconsistency in Ampere’s “law” in that it did not give mathematically consistent results in circuits that contained capacitors.

It simply means that in the calculations. Centered around this charge. because mathematically. the electric permittivity. denoted . and is written 0 . we must go all the way around the loop. more commonly simply refered to as Gauss’ law. and have been replaced by the more useful (equivalent) integral forms. ( 0 ≈ 8. Generally.2 Gauss’ law for electricity Gauss’ law for electricity. is taken to be the electric permittivity of free (empty) space. not a real entity.85 · 10−12 F/m). 4. but theoretically. Imagine a point charge of +Q floating in space. symmetry makes applying Gauss’ law much easier. Here are the four equations: Gauss’ law for electricity: E · dA = closed surface Qenc 0 (4) Gauss’ law for magnetism: B · dA = 0 closed surface (5) Faraday’s law: Ampere-Maxwell law: E · ds B · ds =− dφB dt dφE = µ0 0 + µ0 ienc dt (6) (7) Note: is used to specify a closed loop integral. we can’t stop part way through or the equations won’t be valid. states that the closed surface integral of E ·dA is equal to the charge enclosed by the surface divided by the electric permittivity of the material the charge is in. while completely’s an imaginary construct for the purposes of doing the math. any closed surface can be chosen and it will give the exact same results. Since the charge 8 . are now considered somewhat archaic. We are free to choose our “surface” . also known as a line integral. construct a spherical Gaussian surface of radius R.1 Maxwell’s Equations Maxwell’s Equations The differential forms of Maxwell’s equations as found by Heaviside.4 4. Each law is named according to the person(s) who originally discovered the connections represented by the equation. The most common surfaces chosen are spheres and cylinders.

4π 0 r2 1 Q .is centered in the sphere. Since E is constant at all points on the sphere. this equation becomes E = 4π 0 R2 From the definition of electric flux. φE = E · dA closed surface E = φE = 1 Q 4π 0 R2 1 Q 4π 0 R2 closed surface · dA Since E is pointing radially outward everywhere. A. and E · dA becomes (E)dA. Again from the definition of electric flux. and represents a tiny portion of the surface area of the Gaussian surface. Since in this example. the E field points radially outward and has the 1 Q same magnitude at all points on the sphere. dA is a unit vector normal to the surface at all points. φE = E · dA. The closed surface integral of dA is the surface area. However. Remember that E = . r = R. so applying Gauss’ closed surface law is a way of finding the electric flux through a surface due to a charge Q. it is always parallel to dA. the surface area of a 9 . it can be moved outside the integral: φE = 1 Q 4π 0 R2 1 Q 4π 0 R2 A dA closed surface φE = where A is the surface area of the sphere.

of course. E ∝ 1/R2 . φE must be independent of R. which may seem strange. Using arguments of symmetry. and A ∝ R2 . so their product. the electric field caused by various charge configurations can be found for all points in space. Clearly the electric field still points away from the charge. it works because φE is E multiplied by the surface area of the Gaussian surface. and not near the edge. It can also be used “in reverse. such as cylinders. On one side of the surface. however. the results hold true as long as the distance from the plane at which the electric field is being calculated is significantly smaller than the size of the plane.3 Gauss’ law for magnetism Gauss’ law for magnetism is remarkably similar to Gauss’ law for electricity in form. is simply Gauss’ law! φE is independent of the radius of the sphere. and the flux will have to be the same. it is also possible to prove Gauss’ law for Gaussian surfaces of other shapes. this will give a negative flux . no matter how large the radius of the sphere is. as predicted by Gauss’ law. and at some point. the electric field will still penetrate it at some point. and while the idea of an infinitely large plane is ridiculous. but means something rather different. Imagine that a magnet was 10 .the net electric flux will be zero. we placed outside. since E clearly decreases at a rate ∝ 1/R2 . the electric field will pass through the Gaussian surface.the electric field is entering the surface! But the electric field will have to leave the Gaussian surface on the other side. Mathematically. 4. Imagine that. An example of this is finding the electric field at all points in space caused by an infinitely large plane of charge density ρ. instead placing a charge of +Q inside the Gaussian surface.they don’t just stop . Since all the field lines that enter the surface must leave again .” by dividing both sides of the equation by A after integrating. creating a positive flux. since E points away from the charge.sphere is simply 4πR2 . It’s done using a cylindrical Gaussian surface rather than a spherical one. so this becomes φE = φE = 1 Q 4π 0 R2 Q 0 4πR2 But this.

Pretend that a special magnet with only a North pole. but because the field flows from the North pole to the South pole. φB = B · dA. they’ll cancel.this portion of the field clearly will not contribute to the flux through the surface. Imagine that a circular loop of wire of radius R is placed in a magnetic field B. and if one is ever found. the net flux is zero. so it can be ignored. Again. none have ever been observed. this matches what was predicted by Gauss’ law. existed. Part of the magnetic field closed surface will not pierce the Gaussian surface . 4. All the magnetic field lines would point away from this theoretical magnetic monopole. The positive flux will equal the negative flux.all magnets must have two poles. Suppose that instead the magnet was placed outside the Gaussian surface.4 Faraday’s law According to the definition of magnetic flux. and it isn’t coming back in! Gauss’ law for magnetism. Since the flux going out is equal to the flux coming in. If a Gaussian surface was constructed around this monopole. Remember from the section on magnetism that magnetic fields “flow. just like the electric field lines point away from a positive charge Q. and the net flux will be zero. there would obviously be a positive flux going through the surface.placed in space. This would be called a magnetic monopole. From the definition of magnetic flux. a magnetic field passing through an area A will create magnetic flux. perpendicular to the direction of the field. from the North pole of a magnet to the South pole. φB . the same field lines will enter the surface again somewhere on the surface to go to the South pole. because the magnetic field is leaving. The rest of the magnetic field lines will leave through the surface from the North pole of the magnet. The same argument applies: any part of the magnetic field that enters the surface will have to leave again through the surface. it will mean that Gauss’ law for magnetism is incorrect.” by convention. Although some people are looking for magnetic monopoles. as indicated by Gauss’ law for magnetism. however. and no South pole. there can be no magnetic monopoles . and that a spherical Gaussian surface was constructed around it. very clearly says that the flux should be zero! This means that according to Gauss. The flux through the loop is clearly the strength of 11 . since it is closed.

and hence the change in flux would also be n times greater. we had n loops. and simply have the integral of ds.but that change in sign is to be expected. instead of having one loop of wire. As was observed by Faraday. while harder to visualize. would be n times greater. The dsrepresents an infinitely small portion of the loop of wire. Recall that an electric field multiplied by a distance represents a voltage. V=IR. 2πR. where R is the resistance of the loop. we can move E outside the integral. a voltage is induced in the loop in an attempt by the system to “fight” the change. the dot product of the two will turn into simple multiplication. Consider again the scenario above. since E is not dependent on ds. only the case of changing magnetic fields will be examined. which is nothing but the perimeter of the loop. dt dφB dB The change in flux with time would be = πR2 . The flux could dt dt also be changed by altering the area of the loop. and in the other direction. the “area” enclosed by the loop. because in one direction. Furthermore. we would be decreasing in potential! From Faraday’s law. and the equation would 12 . and since the mathematics are largely similar. Now dB imagine that the magnetic field began changing with time at a rate of . We can go around the loop in either direction and it won’t affect our results other than a change in sign . we have E · ds = − dφB dt Since E in the wire will always be parallel to ds. we would be increasing in potential as we went around. but since changing the area of the loop in real applications is not as practical as changing the magnetic field. Faraday’s law contains the integral of E ·ds. when φB through the loop is changing. dφB dt dφB E (2πR) = − dt E ds = − If.the magnetic field multiplied by the area of the loop: φB = B (πR2 ). A current will then flow in the loop as determined by the Ohm’s law.

He noted that a capacitor is made of two conducting plates seperated by some distance d. µ0 is replaced with µ for the material. is perhaps a deceptive notation. the thumb would be pointed up. what is meant is the current that passes through the interior of the closed loop. the fingers of the right hand will curl in the direction of the flow of current in the loop.become E (2πR) = −n dφB dt The negative sign in this equation is because of Lenz’s Law. The right hand rule for determining the direction of current goes as follows: point the thumb of the right hand in the direction of the changing flux.a flat disc. which essentially states that a negative sign is needed in this equation because otherwise it would be possible to violate Conservation of Energy. the negative sign can be ignored in the calculations without causing any serious consequences. meaning current enclosed. For example. and negative 13 . Ampere’s law predicted the magnetic field very accurately.5 Ampere-Maxwell law Ampere observed that currrent flowing through a wire created a magnetic field around the wire. positive charge accumulated on one plate. If the field were increasing. µ0 is a constant called the magnetic permeability of free space. and that while the capacitor was charging. if there is a material present instead of simply space.” rather. and formulated the equation B · ds = µ0 ienc (8) ienc . When this is done. and solving the resulting equation. Current can not be “enclosed. Since the direction of the current is normally determined with a right hand rule. Ampere’s law is used by simply selecting any closed loop. if the magnetic field points up. but Maxwell noticed that there was a piece missing. However. It is key to note that any closed loop can be selected . 4. the thumb would be pointed down. traversing it with small elements ds. not the magnitude.and it will give the same results. it only affects the direction of the current that flows because of the induced voltage. or perhaps a shape more similar to a grocery bag . and is decreasing.

another closed loop could be selected for the same point that passed through one of the wires connected to the capacitor . using only the four equations known as Maxwell’s equations. now called the Ampereterm µ0 0 dt Maxwell law: B · ds = µ0 0 dφE + µ0 ienc dt dφE When there is no changing electric field. they are used frequently when designing anything that deals with electricity and magnetism.charge accumulated on the other plate. Maxwell completed the equation. A capacitor is essentially a “gap” in a circuit. Einstein claimed that Maxwell’s equations led him toward the discovery of relativity. but because of its nature. By introducing the dphie . = 0 and the law simply becomes dt Ampere’s law. and many have called Maxwell the greatest scientist between Newton and Einstein. they have even led to research into quantum dynamics. but rather is the changing electric field within the capacitor. so that no current passed through the closed loop. 14 . Maxwell completed the theory of electricity and magnetism. it was possible to select one closed loop passing through the capacitor. such as electronic motors and electromagnets. Remarkably. there is a changing electric field between the two plates. However. it is possible to explain all known electromagnetic phenomena on the macroscopic scale. However.and since current flows in the wire. the law would clearly indicate that there was a magnetic field at that point! Clearly this could not be. so something had to be missing. The equations helped Hertz discover and prove the existence of the radio wave. Maxwell named the missing term “displacement current. Since charge is accumulating on the plates of the capacitor. the circuit is still complete.the law leaves us free to choose our own closed loop .” even though it is not really a current at all. using Ampere’s law to find the magnetic field at a point in space. and the formulation of the other three laws. but that no current passed between the plates. This would indicate that there was no magnetic field at that point. 5 Conclusion With his final addition to Ampere’s law.

15 . it is easy to see that they allow for the calculation of theoretical values for a myriad of different circuits. electromagnets that can pick up whole cars. including motors. and capacitor banks capable of storing enough power to run critical equipment for days in the case of a power failure. Maxwell and his equations forever changed the world in which we live.While the equations may be difficult to understand.∼ rhoadley/ Clerk Maxwell.02 Electricity and Magnetism Video Lectures. unspecified.hyperjeff. [3] Jeff Biggus. http://ocw. [5] Walter Lewin.References [1] author not specified. 2002. Cracking the AP Physics B & C Exams. 2002-2003.htm. http://my. 8. 16 . [2] author not specified. [4] Steven A.htm.wikipedia. http://history. The Princeton Review. http://en. Sketches of the History of Electromagnetics. A review of magnets and magnetism. James Clerk Maxwell.

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