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Electrical forces

predominate in the

interaction between the

atoms and molecules

of ordinary matter. This

chapter explains the

concepts of electric

®eld and electrostatic

potential that are

needed to understand

the behaviour of these

forces.

15.1 Forces between charged particles

Positive and negative charges

Coulomb's law

15.2 The electric ®eld

Addition of electric forces

De®nition of the electric ®eld

Lines of force

Superposition of electrostatic ®elds

15.3 Gauss's law

Flux

Surface integrals

15.4 The electrostatic potential

Work done by electric charges

Equipotential surfaces

The dipole potential and ®eld

15.5 Electric ®elds in matter

Macroscopic electric ®elds

Conductors in electric ®elds

Insulators in electric ®elds

Polar molecules

15.6 Capacitors

Relative permittivity

Stored energy

Energy density of the electric ®eld

Electrostatics

Everyone is familiar with electricity as a source of power. Pressing a

switch will turn on a light or heat an oven. Energy is continuously being

produced in these processes, energy that is carried by an electric current

through the metal wires connected to the electricity supply. The electric

current is made up of a ¯ow of moving electrons. We cannot see the

movement because the electrons are very small and are able to move

through a metal without disturbing the structure of the metal.

Electrons are pushed along a wire by forces that act on them because

they carry electric charge. These forces are called electric forces. The

electric force on a charged particle is the same whether the charge is

stationary or moving. There are additional forces that act only on moving

charges, which are called magnetic forces. Moving charges and magnetic

forces are discussed in Chapter 16. The subject of this chapter is

electrostatics, which is the study of the electric forces acting on stationary

charges, and of how these forces are modi®ed in the presence of matter.

Like gravitational forces, electrostatic forces act at a distanceÐthere is

an electrostatic force between two charged particles even if they are

separated by a vacuum. The magnitude of the electrostatic force also has

the same inverse square variation with distance as the gravitational force.

There are, however, two very important differences between gravitational

and electrostatic forces. The ®rst is that the gravitational force between

two masses is always attractive, whereas charges may attract or repel one

another. The other difference is that, on an atomic scale, electrostatic

forces are enormously strong compared with gravitational forces. In the

discussion of the internal motion of individual atoms and molecules,

which is the subject of Chapter 11, only electrostatic forces were

considered and the effects of gravitational forces were completely

neglected. This seems paradoxical, because in everyday life we are well

aware of gravitational force, but do not often notice electrical forces. The

reason is that electrostatic attractions and repulsions tend to cancel out,

whereas gravitational forces are always attractive and, in particular, the

whole of the Earth attracts everything on its surface.

Although the laws governing the forces between charges are introduced

in this chapter in the context of electrostatics, these laws always apply,

even when magnetic effects or electromagnetic waves are present. The

chapter starts by discussing the forces between very small idealized electric

charges in order to explain the concepts of electric ®eld and potential.

Later on, in Sections 15.5 and 15.6, we are concerned with objects

containing very large numbers of atoms. Only average electrical

properties are then of interest: it will be shown how these averages can

be obtained without having to consider the electrical forces within each

atom in turn.

542 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

15.1 Forces between charged particles

Positive and negative charges

It was mentioned above that electrostatic forces are sometimes attractive

and sometimes repulsive. This is because there are two different kinds of

charge, which are called positive and negative. Just like positive and

negative numbers, positive and negative charges are described as being of

opposite sign. Electrons carry a negative charge. Like numbers, positive

and negative charges may cancel one another out. For example, as is

described more fully in Chapter 9, an atom consists of a number of

electrons bound to a positively charged nucleus. The charge on the

nucleus has exactly the same magnitude as the charge of all the electrons

in the atom. Since the nuclear charge is of opposite sign to the charges on

the electrons, the net charge carried by the atom, which is the algebraic

sum of all its charges, is zero. The atom is said to be electrically neutral.

In SI units, charge is measured in coulombs (symbol C). The coulomb

is de®ned with reference to the force between wires carrying electric

current: this is discussed in Chapter 16. The charge carried by a single

electron is written as ÷e, and its magnitude is

e = 1.602 ×10

÷19

coulombs

to four signi®cant ®gures. Because the coulomb is a very large unit,

charges are often measured in microcoulombs (symbol mC:

1mC = 10

÷6

C).

Ordinary matter, made up of electrons and nuclei, may be electrically

neutral or may have a charge that is ±e times an integer. Other particles

besides electrons and atomic nuclei are found in cosmic rays, or may be

created in high-energy collisions in accelerators. All these particles also

have charges that are zero or ±e times an integer. Within a nucleus there

are thought to be particles called quarks that carry an amount of charge

that is a fraction of ±e. However, quarks have a property called

con®nement, which means that they are never observed singly but go

around in packets that do not have fractional charge. It is thus a universal

rule that any object is either electrically neutral or has a positive or

negative charge with magnitude that is an integral multiple of e.

Coulomb's law

Coulomb's law tells us the strength and direction of the forces acting

between two charges. This is the simplest possible case, but on the basis of

Coulomb's law it is possible to work out the electric force on any

distribution of charges. Consider two charges that we shall label q

1

and q

2

:

q

1

and q

2

are numbers representing the magnitudes of the charges in

z

All observable charges are

multiples of the electronic

charge

FORCES BETWEEN CHARGED PARTI CLES 543

coulombs, and these numbers are positive or negative depending on

whether the charges are positive or negative. We shall idealize the

problem by supposing that q

1

and q

2

occupy such a small volume that

they may be treated as point charges with no spatial extent at all.

Let us de®ne F

12

to be the magnitude of the force exerted by a charge q

1

on a charge q

2

. According to Coulomb's law, F

12

depends on the product

q

1

q

2

; doubling the magnitude of either charge doubles the strength of the

force. How do the forces between q

1

and q

2

vary with distance? Just like

the gravitational force between two masses, the electrostatic force between

two charges varies as the inverse square of their distance apart. This

inverse square law is known to hold with great precision, not from direct

measurement of the force between charges, but from the observation of

other phenomena that are deduced from the inverse square law. The

magnitude of the force between the charges q

1

and q

2

is expressed

mathematically as

F

12

·

q

1

q

2

r

2

12

. (15.1)

A constant of proportionality is required to give the strength of the force

in newtons when q

1

and q

2

are in coulombs and r

12

in metres. In the

SI system the constant is written as 1´4pc

0

Ðincluding the factor 4p

simpli®es other equations in electricity and magnetism. The equation for

the magnitude F

12

of the force becomes

F

12

=

q

1

q

2

4pc

0

r

2

12

. (15.2)

The direction of the force between the two charges depends on their

signs. The force acts on the line joining the charges and, if the charges

have opposite sign, like the negatively charged electron and the positively

charged nucleus in the hydrogen atom, the force is attractive: it is the

electrical attraction that binds an electron to the nucleus and ensures that

the atom is stable. On the other hand, if both charges are positive, or both

are negative, the force between them is repulsive.

We must be careful to get the direction of the force correct when

setting up the ®nal equation for Coulomb's law. To do this we must use

the vector notation, and in particular we shall use unit vectors, which are

vectors pointing in any direction, but which always have unit length.

Since we are interested in the direction between the two charges, we

introduce the vector r

12

, which is a vector of unit length pointing from an

origin at the centre of charge q

1

towards charge q

2

.

Unit vectors are used in Section 20.2 (in the mathematical review at the

end of the book) to de®ne the directions of the axes of a Cartesian

coordinate system. In that context, the unit vectors i, j, and k (all of unit

544 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

length) are pointing in the ®xed directions chosen for the x-, y-, and z-

axes. Any vector a that has components a

x

, a

y

, and a

z

along the x-, y-,

and z-axes can then be written as a

x

i ÷a

y

j ÷a

z

k. This expression

speci®es both the magnitude and direction of the vector a. Here it is more

convenient to use a different notation, allowing unit vectors to point in

any direction. The symbol is used to indicate that a vector has unit length:

thus a is a vector of unit length pointing in the same direction as a.

The force exerted by charge q

1

on charge q

2

is denoted by the vector

F

12

. This force points along the line joining the charges, in the direction

away from q

1

for a repulsive force (q

1

and q

2

having the same sign) and

towards q

1

for an attractive force (q

1

and q

2

having different signs).

Different possibilities are illustrated in Fig 15.1, which shows both F

12

and

r

12

for different signs of the charges. In Fig 15.1(c), where the signs are

different, the force is towards q

1

, which is in the opposite direction to r

12

.

However, the unit vector ÷r

12

is also in the opposite direction to r

12

. The

sign required in front of the unit vector r

12

is thus the same as the sign of

the product q

1

q

2

.

The force between two charges q

1

and q

2

may now be expressed in

mathematical terms, using the same notation as in Fig 15.1 for the

position vector of q

2

with respect to q

1

. The magnitude of the force is

given by eqn (15.2) and in SI units Coulomb's law is

F

12

=

q

1

q

2

4¬c

0

r

2

12

r

12

. (15.3)

Similarly, the force F

21

exerted by q

2

on q

1

is

F

21

=

q

1

q

2

4pc

0

r

2

12

r

21

. (15.4)

Since r

21

is a unit vector pointing from q

2

towards q

1

, in the opposite

direction to r

12

, the forces exerted on the two charges according to

eqns (15.3) and (15.4) are equal and opposite, as they should be (compare

Figs 15.1(a) and (d)).

In words, Coulomb's law states that

The force between two charges acts along the line between the

charges, and is proportional to the product of the charges and to the

inverse square of the distance between them. The force is repulsive for

charges of the same sign and attractive for charges of opposite sign.

The dimensions of all the quantities in eqn (15.3) are de®ned

independently of Coulomb's law. The unit of force, the newton, is de®ned

by Newton's second law. The unit of charge, the coulomb, is de®ned with

reference to the magnetic force between wires carrying current. To satisfy

eqn (15.3), the units of the constant c

0

are C

2

N

÷1

m

÷2

. Its value is related

Fig. 15.1 The force on a charge due

to the presence of another charge is

in the same direction as the unit

vector on the line joining the

charges. (a), (b), and (c) show the

force on charge q

2

caused by q

1

for

different combinations of the sign of

the charges. (d) shows the force on

q

1

caused by q

2

when both are

positive.

FORCES BETWEEN CHARGED PARTI CLES 545

to the speed of light, which is the distance light travels in a vacuum in one

second. Since the the unit of length is itself de®ned in terms of the time

taken for light to travel a distance of one metre, the speed of light is also

de®ned to be a particular number of metres per second. Scientists all over

the world have agreed that the value of the speed of light is exactly

2.997 924 58 ms

÷1

. Because the constant c

0

, which is called the

permittivity of free space, is derived from the speed of light, it is also

in principle known exactly. However, it is not a rational number, but

when expressed in decimals it can be calculated to any number of places.

To four signi®cant ®gures, its value is

c

0

= 8.854 ×10

÷12

C

2

N

÷1

m

÷2

. (15.5)

Worked Example 15.1 Two small particles of carbon, each weighing 1 mg

and each carrying a charge of 10

÷6

C, are one centimetre apart. Calculate

the electrostatic force between them.

Answer The force between the particles is found directly by substitution

in eqn (15.2). It is

10

÷6

×10

÷6

4pc

0

×10

÷4

~

10

÷8

1.1 ×10

÷10

~ 90 N.

This example illustrates the enormous strength of electrostatic forces.

The force of 90 N is nearly equal to the weight of a 10 kg mass, acting

between two tiny particles. If the particles were free to move, their initial

acceleration would be 90 kms

÷2

. In practice it is not possible to

accumulate as much charge as 1 mC on such small pieces of matter, even

though only a small fraction of the atoms need to gain or lose an electron

to reach this value. The number of atoms in one mole of carbon is

Avogadro's number, N

A

~ 6 ×10

23

, and, since the mass number of

carbon is 12, the number of atoms in 1 mg is about 5 ×10

19

. The number

of electronic charges in 1 mC is 10

÷6

´e ~ 10

13

´1.6. The fraction of carbon

atoms that must lose one electron to charge the particles with 1 mC is

10

13

´(5 ×10

19

×1.6), or a little more than one in a million.

15.2 The electric ®eld

Coulomb's law in the form given in eqn (15.3) enables us to work out the

forces that two point charges exert on each other. Most practical electrical

problems involve not just two charged particles, but vast numbers of

them. This section introduces the idea of the electric ®eld, which describes

the force on a charged particle due to all the other charges in its

neighbourhood.

546 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

Addition of electric forces

In Fig 15.2 a third positive charge q

3

has been brought close to the two

positive charges q

1

and q

2

shown in Fig 15.1(d). There is now an

additional force F

31

acting on q

1

, due to q

3

. However, the force F

21

exerted on q

1

by q

2

is unchanged, provided that q

1

and q

2

remain at the

same positions after q

3

has been introduced. This is described by saying

that the electric force between charges is a two-body force: the force

between two charges is given by Coulomb's law independently of the

presence of any other charges. The same applies to q

1

and q

3

, and the

force F

31

is also given by Coulomb's law. The net force F

1

on q

1

is simply

the vector sum of the forces due to q

3

and q

2

separately,

F

1

= F

21

÷F

31

. (15.6)

A very simple application of eqn (15.6) is to two or more charges that

are very close together. For example, suppose that in Fig 15.2 q

2

and q

3

both are of magnitude ÷e, and q

3

is moved to the same location as q

2

.

The force on q

1

then has a magnitude 2eq

1

´4pc

0

r

2

21

and is in the direction

r

21

. This is, of course, the same as the force due to a single charge 2e at the

position of q

2

. The fact that the force is a two-body force is thus already

included in Coulomb's law, which allows q

1

and q

2

to have any values,

although we know that in reality the charge in a small volume is always

built up of individual charges of magnitude ±e.

As more and more charges are added, each exerts a force on all the

others. Labelling the charges one by one as q

1

, q

2

, q

3

, F F F q

j

, F F F , the force

F

i

on a particular charge q

i

is the vector sum of the forces F

ji

due to all the

others,

F

i

=

¸

j=i

F

ji

=

¸

j=i

q

i

q

j

4pc

0

r

2

ji

r

ji

=

q

i

4pc

0

¸

j=i

q

j

r

2

ji

r

ji

. (15.7)

The caption j = i under the summation signs indicates that the sum is

taken over all values of j except j = i, since the charge q

i

is not exerting a

force on itself. All the unit vectors r

ji

in the equation remind us that the

force between each pair of charges is pointing along the line joining the

charges. However, when doing calculations it is usually convenient to

refer all the position vectors to a ®xed origin rather than dealing with

each pair of charges separately. Figure 15.3 shows two charges q

i

and q

j

with position vectors r

i

and r

j

referred to an origin at O. The vector from

q

j

to q

i

is r

ji

= r

i

÷r

j

. Writing the length of this vector as [r

i

÷r

j

[, the

unit vector in the direction from q

j

to q

i

is

r

ji

=

r

i

÷r

j

[r

i

÷r

j

[

. (15.8)

Fig. 15.2 The net force F

1

on the

charge q

1

is the vector sum of the

forces F

21

and F

31

caused by q

2

and

q

3

. In the diagram F

1

is the diagonal

in a parallel of forces.

Fig. 15.3 The vector r

ij

between

the charges q

i

and q

j

is the differ-

ence of the position vectors r

i

and r

j

.

z

The force on a charge is the

vector sum of the forces due to

all other charges

THE ELECTRI C FI ELD 547

Substituting in eqn (15.7), the force on q

i

becomes

F

i

=

q

i

4¬c

0

¸

j=i

q

j

(r

i

÷r

j

)

[r

i

÷r

j

[

3

. (15.9)

Note that, because each term in this expression has a vector of length

[r

i

÷r

j

[ in the numerator, the length appears raised to the power 3 in the

denominator, even though the force follows an inverse square law.

Worked Example 15.2 Four positive charges, each of magnitude q, are

situated at the corners of a square of side a, as shown in Fig 15.4. What is

the magnitude and direction of the force on the charge at A?

Answer Consider the components of the force in the directions BD and

CA. The charges at B and D give rise to equal and opposite components

along the direction BD, and each has a component

q

2

cos(45

·

)

4pc

0

a

2

=

q

2

4

2

pc

0

a

2

along the direction CA. The force due to the charge at C is along CA and

has a magnitude

q

2

4pc

0

(

2

a)

2

=

q

2

8pc

0

a

2

.

The total force on the charge at A is therefore q

2

(1 ÷2

2

)´(8pc

0

a

2

)

pointing along the direction CA. Each of the other charges has a force of

the same magnitude pointing in the direction of the outward diagonal,

and the net force on the square is zero.

Exercise 15.1 Calculate the magnitude of the force on the charge at A in

Fig 15.4 if the charge at B is replaced by a charge ÷q.

Answer The force due to the charges ÷q at D and ÷q at B is now

2

2

q

2

´(8pc

0

a

2

) in the direction DB, and the total force has magnitude

3q

2

´(8pc

0

a

2

).

De®nition of the electric ®eld

Imagine that you have a test charge q that you can move about in the

region near the charges q

i

. Suppose also that the positions of the charges

q

i

are undisturbed by the presence of q. If q is placed at a point with

position vector r with respect to the origin at O, the force on it is,

Fig. 15.4 The charges at A, B, C,

and D lie in the same plane at the

corners of a square of side a.

548 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

according to eqn (15.9),

F =

q

4pc

0

¸

j

q

j

(r ÷r

j

)

[r ÷r

j

[

3

. (15.10)

The sum is over all j now, because the test charge has been excluded

from the labelling. Now look at the quantity F´q. It does not depend on

the test charge at all. It may be calculated at any location whether or not a

test charge is present; the position vector r is a variable, and F´q is a

vector function of position. This function is called the electric ®eld, and

it is denoted E(r).

Functions of position are called ®elds. Because E(r) is itself a vector, it is a

vector ®eld. In electromagnetism we shall also meet functions of position

that are scalar quantities, which have magnitude but not direction. These

functions are called scalar ®elds.

By dividing eqn (15.10) by q we ®nd

E(r) =

1

4¬c

0

¸

j

q

j

(r ÷r

j

)

[r ÷r

j

[

3

. (15.11)

The dimensions of the electric ®eld are force per unit charge, and it is

measured in newtons per coulomb: if a charge of one coulomb were

placed in an electric ®eld of strength one newton per coulomb it would

experience a force of one newton, and this force would act in the

direction of the electric ®eld vector at the position of the charge.

Worked Example 15.3 Calculate the electric ®eld due to a proton at a

distance of 0.07 nm (this distance is approximately the separation of the

protons in a hydrogen molecule).

Answer There is only a single term in the summation in eqn (15.11) and

we can choose the origin to coincide with the proton. At any point a

distance r = 0.07 nm from the proton, the electric ®eld points in a

direction away from the proton, and has a magnitude e´(4pc

0

r

2

):

1.602 ×10

÷19

4p ×8.854 ×10

÷12

×0.0049 ×10

÷18

~ 2.9 ×10

11

newtons per coulomb.

This is far in excess of any electric ®eld that can be achieved over a

distance larger than atomic dimensions, and again illustrates the

enormous strength of electric forces within atoms and molecules.

z

Vector ®elds

THE ELECTRI C FI ELD 549

Exercise 15.2 Estimate the repulsive electrostatic force between the two

protons in a hydrogen molecule and compare it with their gravitational

attraction.

Answer The electrostatic force is about 5 ×10

÷8

N, and the gravitational

force is about 4 ×10

÷44

N. The electrostatic force is thus more than 10

36

times larger: this ratio applies at any distance, since both forces obey an

inverse square law.

Lines of force

Around an isolated positive point charge q

1

there is only a single term in

the summation in eqn (15.11). Choosing the origin to be at the position

of the point charge, the electric ®eld is

E(r) =

q

1

4pc

0

r

r

3

. (15.12)

In this equation r is the position vector of any point in space with respect

to the origin. The electric ®eld E(r) is everywhere pointing in the same

direction as r, directly away from the origin. A positive charge q placed at

r will experience a force qq

1

´(4pc

0

r

2

) in this direction. This can be

visualized by drawing lines of force in the direction of the ®eld, as in

Fig 15.5. The diagram is only two-dimensional, but it will look the same in

any plane passing through q

1

. The diagram does not indicate the strength

of the force, but notice that close to q

1

, where the ®eld is strong, the lines

are close together, whereas the lines are far apart at large distances where

the ®eld is weak. The ®gure also shows the ®eld around a negative point

charge. The diagram is the same except that the ®eld is in the opposite

direction, inwards instead of outwards. Following the arrows, you can see

that ®eld lines start from positive charges and end on negative charges.

An instructive diagram of lines of force is shown in Fig 15.6. Here two

charges ±q of the same magnitude but opposite sign are placed not very

far apart. Close to each charge, the lines behave in the same way as in

Fig 15.5, pointing away from the positive charge and towards the negative

charge. But, as the distance from one charge increases, the in¯uence of the

other becomes more important. Field lines leaving the positive charge

bend round and move towards the negative charge. At larger distances

from the charges, the lines are far apart. The electric ®eld has become

weak because the contributions from the positive and negative charges

almost cancel one another. Once again the diagram is two-dimensional,

but it will look the same in any plane passing through both charges.

The pair of equal and opposite charges separated by a small distance is

called an electric dipole. The ®eld pattern generated by an electric dipole

Fig. 15.5 Electric ®eld lines radiate

outwards from a positive point

charge and inwards towards a

negative point charge.

Fig. 15.6 The ®eld lines around an

electrostatic dipole start at the

positive charge and bend round to

end on the negative charge.

z

The electric dipole

550 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

is important in many branches of physics and chemistry; later on we shall

evaluate the ®eld due to an electric dipole mathematically. However, it is

also very helpful towards understanding the behaviour of electric ®elds to

have a mental picture of the kind given by diagrams of lines of force. As in

the example of the electric dipole, these often illustrate important pro-

perties of the electric ®eld without the need to do any calculations at all.

Exercise 15.3 Sketch the lines of force in the neighbourhood of two

positive charges of equal magnitude.

Superposition of electrostatic ®elds

The electric ®eld as given by eqn (15.11) is the vector sum of the electric

®elds generated by each charge q

j

separately. If some more charges are

added, more terms are added to the summation. However, there is no

change to the terms that were already there, provided that the original

charges do not move. If we know the electric ®elds generated by two

different sets of charges separately, the electric ®eld generated by both

together is simply the vector sum of the two separate ®elds. The two

®elds, which each occupy three-dimensional space, are superimposed on

one another. Because it has this property, the electric ®eld is said to satisfy

the principle of superposition.

Superposition is discussed for one-dimensional waves in Section 6.5,

where it is shown that different waves may be superposed because the

equations governing the wave motion are linear. Similarly here, super-

position applies to different electric ®elds because the ®eld depends

linearly on the charges that generate the ®elds. When superposition is

extended to the varying electric and magnetic ®elds that occur in electro-

magnetic waves, the phenomena of diffraction and interference described

in Sections 8.6 and 8.7 can be explained.

15.3 Gauss's law

The electric ®eld due to any system of charges is found by superposing the

®elds due to each one separately. This sounds very simple but, since the

®elds to be summed are vectors, the general expression given by

eqn (15.11) may be very dif®cult to work out.

A completely different way of relating the electric ®eld to the charges is

called Gauss's law. It is sometimes much easier to calculate the ®eld from

Gauss's law than by summing the ®elds from all the charges. Gauss's law

GAUSS' S LAW 551

follows from the inverse square variation of the electric ®eld with

distance, and it can be understood by analogy with the spreading out of

energy from a light source, which also decreases with the inverse square

of distance. If the light source is in an enclosed space such as a room, all

the light leaving the source reaches a surface somewhere in the room.

Nearby surfaces are brightly illuminated and those that are far away are

dimly illuminated. Moving the surfaces will make a difference to their

brightness, but not to the total amount of light in the room. We shall

prove that a similar result holds for a quantity called the ¯ux of the

electric ®eld. If a charge is surrounded by a closed surface, the ¯ux over

the whole surface has a ®xed relation to the amount of charge,

independent of the shape or size of the surface.

Flux

Figure 15.7 shows a small ¯at surface of area dS placed in an electric ®eld

E so that the normal to the surface is at an angle 0 to the direction of E.

The projected area of dS viewed along the direction of the ®eld lines of

E is dS cos 0. The ¯ux of E through dS is de®ned to be EdS cos 0. This

may be expressed concisely by associating a vector dS with the area dS,

directed along the normal to the surface, as shown in Fig 15.7. The ¯ux

through dS can now be written as the scalar product E dS. Note that dS

can be the normal to the surface in either direction from the surface. The

sign of the ¯ux depends on whether 0 is greater or less than 90

·

. If the

component of dS in the direction of the ®eld is positive, 0 is less than 90

·

and the ¯ux is positive: if this component is opposite to the ®eld, the ¯ux

is negative.

If we have a large area S, which is not necessarily plane, we can divide it

up as shown in Fig 15.8. If the division is ®ne enough, the small surfaces

like dS

i

are practically ¯at. The ¯ux through dS

i

is E(r

i

) dS

i

, where r

i

is

the position vector of dS

i

, the total ¯ux through S is the sum

¸

i

E(r

i

) dS

i

of contributions from all the surfaces dS

i

. In the limit as

the areas of all the surfaces dS

i

tend to zero, the summation becomes a

two-dimensional surface integral over the surface S which is written as

Flux through S = lim

dS

i

÷0

¸

i

E(r

i

) dS

i

=

S

E(r) dS. (15.13)

How does this equation apply to the electric ®eld around an isolated

point charge q

1

located at the origin of coordinates? Choose for the

surface o a sphere of radius r centred at the origin. The electric ®eld on

the surface of the sphere has a magnitude q

1

´(4pc

0

r

2

) and is

perpendicular to the surface, so that the outward normal to the sphere

is everywhere in the same direction as the ®eld. The area of the sphere is

Fig. 15.7 The vector dS has a

magnitude equal to the area dS

of the small surface and is

perpendicular to it.

Fig. 15.8 Any surface like the

shaded surface o may be divided up

into many adjacent surfaces dS

i

. In

the limit as the dS

i

become in®nite-

simal, each one may be regarded as

a plane surface.

552 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

4pr

2

, and the total electric ¯ux out of the surface o of the sphere is

o

E(r) dS =

q

1

4¬c

0

r

2

×4¬r

2

=

q

1

c

0

. (15.14)

Equation (15.14) relates the ¯ux out of the sphere to the charge inside it.

This equation is Gauss's law, though here it has only been derived for the

very special case of a point charge at the centre of a sphere.

Surface integrals

In order to generalize Gauss's law to surfaces of any shape, we need to

work out the surface integral on the left-hand side of eqn (15.14).

Multidimensional integrals are discussed in Section 4.2 in Cartesian and

cylindrical polar coordinates. Here it is best to use spherical polar

coordinates, which are compared with Cartesian coordinates in Fig 15.9.

The position vector r of the point P has Cartesian coordinates (x, y, z).

The vector r can also be speci®ed by the spherical polar coordinates

(r, 0, c). The coordinate r is the length OP of r and 0 is the angle between

OP and the z-axis. The plane through OP and the z-axis cuts the xy-plane

along OQ. The angle between OQ and the x-axis is the coordinate c.

The reason for using spherical polar coordinates here is that the proof

of Gauss's law depends on the mathematical concept of solid angle, which

is best expressed in this coordinate system. For readers unfamiliar with or

unsure of the meaning of solid angle, it is described in the box that

follows.

Solid angle is the measure of the angular size of a cone. Figure 15.10

shows part of a sphere with radius r and centre at the origin. The point P

with position vector r has spherical polar coordinates (r, 0, c). Keeping r

and c ®xed, rotate the position vector r through an angle Á0. The point P

moves to Q along an arc of length rÁ0. Next rotate the line OQ through a

small angle Ác while keeping r and 0 ®xed at the values they have at Q.

The point Q moves to R along an arc of length r sin 0Ác. When the

rotations are performed in the order Ác followed by Á0, P moves to R

via S. Denoting the area of the spherical surface within PQRS by ÁS, the

quantity

Á1 = ÁS´r

2

(15.15)

is called the solid angle subtended by the area PQRS at the origin O. The

area of the whole sphere is 4pr

2

, and so ÁS´4pr

2

= Á1´4p is the

fraction of the total area of the sphere covered by the area within PQRS.

Equivalently you may think of Á1´4p as the fraction of the volume of

the sphere occupied by the cone that has ÁS as its base. Solid angle is

Fig. 15.9 The spherical polar

coordinates (r, 0, c) are de®ned

with respect to a set of Cartesian

coordinates (x, y, z).

C

D

Fig. 15.10 The area within PQRS is

on the surface of a sphere of radius

r. The angles at the apex of the cone

are Á0 and sin 0Ác.

z

Solid angles

GAUSS' S LAW 553

measured in the dimensionless units called steradians. The complete

sphere subtends a solid angle of 4p steradians at the origin.

Since the area PQRS is not ¯at, to calculate a solid angle we must

perform an integration. If Á0 and Ác are made smaller and smaller,

PQRS gets closer and closer to being a ¯at rectangle, and in the limit the

in®nitesimal area dS = r d0 ×r sin 0 dc and the in®nitesimal solid angle

of the cone with base dS is

d1 = dS´r

2

= sin 0 d0 dc. (15.16)

To ®nd the solid angle Á1 of the cone with angles Á0 and Ác at the

apex, d1 must be integrated over both 0 and c,

Á1 =

c÷Ác

c

0÷Á0

0

sin 0 d0 dc.

To integrate over all directions, the limits are from c = 0 to 2p, and

0 = 0 to p: if 0 were allowed to vary from 0 to 2p the whole sphere would

be covered twice. The total solid angle subtended by a sphere centred on

the origin is thus

2p

c=0

p

0=0

sin 0 d0 dc = 4p

con®rming, by direct integration, the result already derived from the area

of the sphere.

In Fig 15.11 a point charge q

1

at the origin is surrounded by a closed

surface o. The cone with apex at the origin and solid angle d1 =

sin 0d0dc cuts through o at the point P with spherical polar coordinates

r, 0, and c, and a small area dS of the surface lies within the cone. Because

the surface completely encloses the volume within it, a vector normal to

dS must point inwards or outwards. Gauss's law applies to the ¯ux of E

out of a closed surface, and the vector dS, of magnitude dS, is chosen to be

in the direction of the outward normal, as shown in Fig 15.11.

A sphere of radius r centred at the origin also passes through P, and

according to eqn (15.16) the area dS

sphere

of the sphere within the cone is

r

2

d1 = r

2

sin 0d0dc. The electric ®eld at P has a magnitude q

1

´(4pc

0

r

2

)

and is perpendicular to the surface of the sphere. The ¯ux through dS is

the same as the ¯ux through dS

sphere

and is

E(r) dS =

q

1

4pc

0

r

2

×r

2

sin 0d0dc =

q

1

4pc

0

×sin 0d0dc =

q

1

4pc

0

d1,

and in the limit as dS becomes in®nitesimal

E(r) dS =

q

1

4pc

0

d1. (15.17)

Fig. 15.11 The ¯ux of E through

the surface dS is determined by the

solid angle of the cone and the

magnitude of the charge q

1

, and

does not depend on the orientation

of dS.

z

A sphere subtends a solid

angle of 4p steradians at its

centre

554 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

The ¯ux of E through dS depends on the solid angle subtended by dS at

the charge q

1

but not on the distance of dS or its angle to the position

vector r. The total ¯ux through o can now be evaluated using eqn

(15.17),

Flux through o =

o

E dS =

2p

c=0

p

0=0

q

1

4pc

0

sin 0 d0 dc =

q

1

c

0

.

(15.18)

This result applies for any charge q

1

and any surface o enclosing it. Any

number of charges q

i

within o will each give a contribution q

i

´c

0

to the

total ¯ux through o.

There may in addition be charges outside o. Figure 15.12 shows that

such charges make no contribution to the ¯ux over o. The cone from the

charge q

1

passes twice through o, once entering and once leaving. The

®eld E entering o makes a negative contribution to the ¯ux out of o,

because the outward normal makes an angle greater than 90

·

with E at

this point. Where the cone leaves o the contribution is positive and, since

the solid angle is the same, the net ¯ux contributed by q

1

is zero.

Figure 15.13 shows a more complicated surface o which is re-entrant. A

small cone with apex at a charge q

1

within o must always pass outwards

through the surface one more time than it passes inwards, and the con-

tribution to the ¯ux is just q

1

´c

0

as for a sphere. Similarly a cone from a

charge outside o may enter and leave more than once, but the number of

entering and leaving ¯uxes are the same, and the net contribution is zero.

The ®nal result, which is Gauss's law, is that, for any closed surface o,

o

E dS =

¸

i

q

i

c

0

=

Q

c

0

(15.19)

where Q =

¸

i

q

i

is the sum of all the charges situated within o.

In words, Gauss's law states that

The total ¯ux of the electric ®eld out of any closed surface equals the

total charge enclosed within the surface divided by c

0

.

Sometimes the electric ®eld possesses a symmetry that may greatly

simplify the calculation of the surface integral in Gauss's law. For

example, around a point charge q

1

we can say immediately that the

electric ®eld must point towards or away from q

1

and that its magnitude

must depend only on the distance from q

1

. If we place q

1

at the origin of

coordinates, the directions of the x-, y-, and z-axes are completely

arbitrary. One choice of directions for the axes is as good as any other.

If we now use spherical polar coordinates related to the Cartesian

coordinates as in Fig 15.10, all values of 0 and c, which de®ne a

direction, must be equivalent. The ®eld is said to possess spherical

symmetry, and all points on a sphere centred at the origin are equivalent.

Fig. 15.12 The ¯ux through a

closed surface due to a charge

outside the surface is zero.

Fig. 15.13 Flux may pass several

times in and out of a closed surface,

but for a charge located inside the

surface the ¯ux always passes

outwards one more time than

it passes inwards.

z

When a system of charges

possesses a simple symmetry,

the electric ®eld may be

calculated easily using Gauss's

law

GAUSS' S LAW 555

There cannot be any component of the ®eld along the surface of the

sphere. The magnitude of E in the outward direction at a distance r from

the origin depends only on r and can be written as E(r). According to

Gauss's theorem, the ¯ux through the sphere of radius r is E(r)×

4pr

2

= q

1

´c

0

, and

E(r) =

q

1

4pc

0

r

2

. (15.20)

The argument used to prove Gauss's law from the inverse square law has

been turned around by invoking the symmetry of the ®eld. Each law can

be derived from the other, and either may be used as the basis of

electrostatics.

Worked Example 15.4 A large number of small charges are placed close

together along a straight line so that the total charge per unit length is

i Cm

÷1

(coulombs per metre). Assuming the line of charges to be

in®nitely long, calculate the electrostatic ®eld at a perpendicular distance

r from the line.

Answer This is an example of cylindrical symmetry, because all directions

pointing perpendicularly away from the line of charges are equivalent.

The electric ®eld must be perpendicular to the lineÐsince there is no way

to choose one direction along the line rather than the other, the

component of the ®eld along the line must be zero. A cylinder of

length / with axis on the line and ends perpendicular to the

line, as shown in Fig 15.14, is a suitable surface for the application of

Gauss's theorem. The ®eld is everywhere perpendicular to the curved

surface of the cylinder and its magnitude E(r) depends only on the

distance r. The area of the curved surface of the cylinder is 2pr/ and the

¯ux out of this surface is therefore 2pr/E(r). The ¯ux out of the ends of

the cylinder is zero, since the ®eld lines do not cross the end surfaces. The

total amount of charge within the cylinder is i/ and, applying Gauss's law

to the cylinder,

outward flux = 2pr/E(r) = total charge´c

0

= i/´c

0

or

E(r) =

i

2pc

0

r

. (15.21)

A real line of charges can never be in®nitely long. However, eqn (15.21) is

a good approximation for the magnitude of the ®eld provided that r is

small compared to the distance to the end of the line of charges.

Fig. 15.14 The electric ®eld near a

line charge may be calculated by

applying Gauss's law to an imaginary

cylinder of length / and radius r.

556 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

15.4 The electrostatic potential

The concepts of work and potential energy are discussed in general terms

in Sections 3.3 and 3.6. The work done by a force is de®ned in eqn (3.12)

as (force × the distance moved in the direction of the force). Examples

considered in Chapter 3 include the work done against the gravitational

force in lifting a mass, and against the restoring force of a spring when it

is stretched. In both cases energy must be expended to do the work, but

this energy does not disappear. It is stored as potential energy, which may

later be released: gravitational potential energy may, for example, be

released by allowing an object to fall.

Work done by electric charges

The concepts of work and potential energy also apply when the forces are

electrical. Consider the two positive charges q and q

1

shown in Fig 15.15.

The charge q

1

is ®xed, but q may be moved. There is a repulsive force

between the two charges and when they are separated by a distance r the

magnitude of the force is given by eqn (15.2) as

F =

qq

1

4pc

0

r

2

.

The force on q acts in the direction AB. If q moves a distance dr along the

line BC, the work done by the force is Fdr. The amount of work done

when q moves from B to C, changing the separation of the charges from

an initial value r

i

to a ®nal value r

f

is

W =

r

f

r

i

Fdr =

r

f

r

i

qq

1

4pc

0

r

2

dr =

qq

1

4pc

0

÷

1

r

¸

r

f

r

i

=

qq

1

4pc

0

1

r

i

÷

1

r

f

.

(15.22)

This work represents the difference in the electrical potential energy of

the two charges when q moves from B to C. It is natural to choose the

potential energy to be zero at r

f

= ·, and with this choice the total

potential energy U of the two charges when they are at A and B, separated

by a distance r

i

, is

U = W

·

=

qq

1

4pc

0

r

i

. (15.23)

This equation is very similar to eqn (5.5), which gives the gravitational

potential energy of two masses, except that the sign is different. The sign

change occurs because the gravitational force is attractive, whereas the

electrical force between positive charges we have been considering here is

repulsive. Work must be done to pull the masses apart, and the

gravitational potential energy is therefore negative. The same applies to

Fig. 15.15 The electric ®eld does

work on the charge q when it moves

from B to C.

z

Electrical and gravitational

potential energies are given by

similar expressions

THE ELECTROSTATI C POTENTI AL 557

charges of different sign. Equation (15.23) is still valid, but if q and q

1

have different signs the right-hand side is negative, corresponding, as for

the gravitational case, to the fact that work must be done to pull the

charges apart.

The potential energy of q depends only on its distance from q

1

and not

on the direction. In Fig 15.16 no work is done in moving q from B to E or

from C to D, since the electric force is perpendicular to the direction of

motion. Furthermore, the loss in potential energy in moving from B to C

may be recovered by using an external force to push q back to B. The

work done by the external force is also given by eqn (15.22). No work is

done if q moves from B to C and back again, nor is there any change in

potential energy. The same applies if q is taken round the path BCDEB or

any other path starting and ®nishing at the same point: the potential

energy depends only on the position of q and not on the path it took to

get there. As explained in Section 3.6, a force that has the property of

doing no work around a closed path is called a conservative force.

Like the electric ®eld, the potential energy is usually most conveniently

expressed in terms of position vectors with respect to a ®xed origin.

Suppose that q and q

1

are placed at points with position vectors r and r

1

with respect to an origin at O, as in Fig 15.17,

The potential energy in eqn (15.23) may now be written

U =

qq

1

4pc

0

[r ÷r

1

[

. (15.24)

If more charges q

2

, q

3

, F F F are now placed at r

2

, r

3

, F F F the potential

energy of q with respect to each one is an expression of the form of

eqn (15.24). The total potential energy, that is, the energy U

tot

that is

released if q is moved far away while all the other charges remain ®xed, is

U

tot

=

¸

j

qq

j

4¬c

0

[r ÷r

j

[

. (15.25)

The charge q has been used as a test charge to sample the potential energy

it gains in the neighbourhood of the ®xed charges q

j

. The potential energy

per unit charge U

tot

´q is determined only by the magnitudes and

positions of the ®xed charges q

j

, just as is the electric ®eld. The quantity

U

tot

´q is called the electrostatic potential and it is denoted by c(r),

c(r) = U

tot

´q =

¸

j

q

j

4¬c

0

[r ÷r

j

[

. (15.26)

Like the electric ®eld, the electrostatic potential is a function of

position. Unlike the electric ®eld, it has a magnitude but no direction: it is

a scalar ®eld. Since the potential represents energy per unit charge, it may

be measured in joules per coulomb. However, the potential is of such

great practical importance that it has a special unit called the volt,

Fig. 15.16 The dashed lines are

perpendicular to the electric ®eld

due to the charge q

1

and no work is

done if q follows the path BCDEB.

Fig. 15.17 The potential energy of

q in the ®eld of q

1

depends on the

distance [r ÷r

1

[ between them.

z

The electrostatic force is

conservative

558 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

denoted by the symbol V. One volt is the same as one joule per coulomb.

One joule of energy is required to move a charge of one coulomb through

a potential difference of one volt.

The electrostatic potential depends linearly on the magnitudes of the

charges q

j

and, like the electric ®eld, the potential obeys the principle of

superposition. If the potential is known for two different sets of charges,

when both are present the potential is the sum of the potentials for each

separately.

Worked Example 15.5 The two electrons in a hydrogen molecule are

suddenly removed, leaving two protons separated by about 0.07 nm. The

protons then ¯y apart; calculate their ®nal kinetic energy.

Answer The potential energy of the two protons, given by eqn (15.18), is

converted entirely into kinetic energy. They have equal and opposite

momenta, and each has kinetic energy E

K

equal to half of the initial

potential energy,

E

K

=

e

2

8pc

0

r

=

(1.602 ×10

÷19

)

2

8p ×8.854 ×10

÷12

×0.07 ×10

÷9

~ 1.6 ×10

÷18

J.

The unit of energy on the atomic energy scale is the electron volt (eV),

which is the work done when a charge of e coulombs is moved through

a potential difference of one volt: 1 eV = 1.602 ×10

÷19

J. E

K

is thus

about 10 eV.

Equipotential surfaces

For an isolated charge q

1

the electrostatic potential at a distance r from q

1

is q

1

´(4pc

0

r). All points on the surface of a sphere of radius r are at the

same potential. Spherical surfaces centred on q

1

are equipotential

surfaces. No work is done in moving a test charge q across the surface

from one point to another. The electric ®eld generated by q

1

points

radially outwards: electric ®eld lines pointing outwards from an

equipotential surface are illustrated in Fig 15.18.

At a point where a ®eld line crosses the equipotential surface the line is

perpendicular to the surface. This is obvious for a single charge, for which

the ®eld lines are radial and the equipotentials are spherical, but it is in

fact a general result. Electric ®eld lines are always perpendicular to

equipotential surfaces, no matter what the distribution of charge. This is

easily proved by considering a small movement of a test charge on an

equipotential surface. No work is done, and it follows that the electric

®eld does not have a component lying in the surface, that is, the ®eld is

perpendicular to the surface.

Fig. 15.18 Field lines radiating

outwards from the charge q

1

are

perpendicular to the spherical

equipotential surface.

THE ELECTROSTATI C POTENTI AL 559

The electric ®eld and the electrostatic potential are really just different

ways of expressing the same information about a system of charges.

Figure 15.19 shows the ®eld lines and equipotentials in a plane passing

through a point charge q

1

. Given a map of the contour lines representing

the equipotentials, we could draw ®eld lines cutting them perpendicu-

larly, and vice versa: given the ®eld lines, equipotentials cutting them at

right angles would have to be circles.

Up to now we have expressed the electric ®eld in units of newtons per

coulomb. Since one volt is the same as one joule per coulomb, newtons

per coulomb are equivalent to volts per metre (Vm

÷1

). Note that volts

per metre, which is the usual unit for describing electric ®eld, represents

the rate of change of potential with distance. In mathematical terms a

rate of change is found by differentiation. For a point charge q

1

,

c(r) = q

1

´(4pc

0

r). The potential decreases with the distance r from

the charge, and to ®nd the rate of change of potential with distance we

must differentiate with respect to r. Remembering that for a positive

charge the ®eld points outwards, in the direction of decreasing potential,

we have

÷

dc

dr

=

q

1

4pc

0

r

2

,

the same as the magnitude of the electric ®eld of a point charge given in

eqn (15.20).

Another simple example relating ®eld and potential is illustrated in

Fig 15.20, which shows the ®eld lines for a uniform ®eld E pointing in the

z-direction. Two equipotential surfaces, which are both perpendicular to

the z-axis, are a distance d apart, and at potentials c(z) and c(z ÷d),

respectively. The force on a test charge q is qE and the potential energy at

P is qc(z). The difference in potential energy of the test charge between

the points P and Q equals the work done to move it back from Q to P,

qc(z) ÷qc(z ÷d) = qV = qEd. (15.27)

The difference in potential V between z and z ÷d is usually called the

voltage difference or simply the voltage between the two points.

Remember that the ®eld points in the direction of decreasing potential.

In eqn (15.27) V and E are positive if c(z) is greater than c(z ÷d).

The uniform electric ®eld may also be represented in differential form

by allowing the distance d in eqn (15.27) to become very small. If d is

written as dz, then c(z) ÷c(z ÷dz) = Edz and, in the limit as dz tends

to zero,

E = ÷

dc

dz

. (15.28)

Fig. 15.19 Field lines (solid) and

equipotential lines (dashed) in a

plane through a charge q

1

.

Fig. 15.20 The relation between

®eld E and potential c is found by

moving a charge in the ®eld. The

equipotentials are the dashed lines.

560 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

Notice that there is a minus sign in eqn (15.28), just as in the equation

relating ®eld and potential for a point charge.

A differential relation similar to eqn (15.28) applies to any electric ®eld and

the argument used here for the uniform ®eld is generalized in the box below.

Figure 15.21 shows two equipotential surfaces very close together, having

electrostatic potentials c and (c ÷dc). The vector d is a vector in any

direction joining the point P on the surface at potential c to a point Q on

the surface at potential (c ÷dc). The electric ®eld E at P is perpendicular

to the equipotential surfaces. which are a distance PR = d/ cos 0 apart.

The work done on a test charge q when it moves from P to Q is the

force qE times the distance PR in the direction of the force, i.e.

qEd/ cos 0 = qE d. This work is equal to the loss in potential energy

(÷qdc),

qE d = ÷qdc. (15.29)

The fact that no work is done on a test charge when it is moved round

any closed path that returns to its starting point is expressed mathe-

matically by taking the in®nitesimal limit of eqn (15.29) and integrating.

The result is that for electrostatic ®elds

E d = 0. (15.30)

Here the symbol

**indicates that the line integral is round a closed path
**

made up of in®nitesimal segments d.

If we choose Cartesian coordinates with unit vectors i, j, and k in the

x-, y-, and z-directions, we may write E = E

x

i ÷E

y

j ÷E

z

k and d =

dxi ÷dyj ÷dzk leading to

E d = E

x

dx ÷E

y

dy ÷E

z

dz = ÷dc.

The partial derivative 0c´0x is the rate of change of c with x when

both y and z are kept constant. In the limit as dx, dy, and dz tend to zero,

E

x

= ÷

0c

0x

; E

y

= ÷

0c

0y

; E

z

= ÷

0c

0z

.

The vector with components 0c´0x, 0c´0y, 0c´0z is called the gradient

of c and is written as grad c. The three eqns above are summarized as

E(r) = ÷gradc(r). (15.31)

The function gradc(r) is a vector ®eld that has been derived from the

scalar ®eld c(r). The properties of gradc have already been described

above in the discussion of the connection between the ®eld and potential:

gradc is perpendicular to surfaces of constant c and its magnitude is the

rate of change of c with distance in that direction. In a two-dimensional

contour map the contours are equipotentials of the gravitational potential

Fig. 15.21 Here the charge is

moved in a direction different from

the direction of the ®eld.

z

The gradient of a scalar

function

THE ELECTROSTATI C POTENTI AL 561

c and grad c at a point on the map is in the direction of the steepest

uphill gradient from that point.

Exercise 15.4 An electron is placed in an electric ®eld of magnitude

100 Vcm

÷1

. Calculate the electrostatic force on the electron and compare

it with the gravitational force.

Answer 1.6 ×10

÷15

N. This is 1.8 ×10

14

times greater than the gravita-

tional force on the electron.

The dipole potential and ®eld

Because the electrostatic potential is a scalar ®eld, it is often easier to

evaluate the potential than the ®eld for a particular distribution of

charges. Once the potential is known, the ®eld can be determined from

eqn (15.31). This is the method we shall use to calculate the ®eld in the

neighbourhood of an electric dipole consisting of two charges of equal

magnitude but opposite sign. The shape of the ®eld lines around a dipole

has already been sketched in Fig 15.6, but this ®gure is only a guess based

on the way the ®eld lines must pass from the positive to the negative

charge. The ®gure does not tell us how rapidly the strength of the ®eld

falls off with distance from the dipole, or precisely how it varies with

direction with respect to the axis of the dipole. It is important to have a

mathematical expression for the dipole ®eld, because it is responsible for

part of the interaction between molecules and it is also related to

electromagnetic radiation.

The dipole in Fig 15.22 has charges ±q separated by a distance a.

Spherical polar coordinates referred to a z-axis along the line joining the

charges are the most convenient for discussing the potential of the dipole.

The origin is midway between the two charges and the point P has

coordinates (r, 0, ·): the symbol · is used for the third coordinate in this

section, rather than the usual c to avoid confusion with the potential,

which is also usually labelled by c. The dipole has cylindrical symmetry so

that all angles · are equivalent and the potential depends only on r and 0.

The ®gure represents a plane passing through the z-axis and the point P.

The vectors r

÷

and r

÷

join the charges ÷q and ÷q to P. The potential at P

is the sum of the contributions from each charge, and is

c(r) =

q

4pc

0

1

r

÷

÷

1

r

÷

. (15.32)

This expression applies everywhere, but it cannot be expressed simply

in terms of the coordinates r and 0. In practice it turns out that what is

usually important is the ®eld at distances large compared with a.

Fig. 15.22 The potential around a

dipole is the sum of the potentials of

the two charges ±q separately.

562 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

As the distance from the dipole to P increases, the fractional difference

between r

÷

and r

÷

becomes smaller. The two terms on the right-hand

side of eqn (15.32) therefore cancel each other more and more closely as

the distance r from the dipole to P increases, and the potential must

diminish faster than 1´r. When a´r is small, a good approximation to the

potential, which is worked out in the following box, is

c(r) =

qa cos 0

4pc

0

r

2

=

p cos 0

4pc

0

r

2

(15.33)

where p = qa.

The magnitudes of the vectors r

÷

and r

÷

are given in terms of the

coordinates r and 0 by applying the cosine rule:

r

2

±

= r

2

÷

1

4

a

2

·ar cos 0 = r

2

1 ÷

a

2

4r

2

·

a

r

cos 0

.

To ®nd the potential at distances large compared with a, we must

expand it in powers of a´r using the binomial theorem. All terms except

the ®rst order in a´r will be neglected, and we may write

1

r

±

= (r

2

±

)

÷1´2

=

1

r

1 ·

a

r

cos 0

÷1´2

=

1

r

1 ±

a

2r

cos 0

.

Substituting these expressions for r

±

in eqn (15.32), the leading terms in

1´r cancel and we are left with eqn (15.33).

The potential given in eqn (15.33) is often called the dipole potential, and

it represents the potential due to an idealized point dipole in which the

distance a has been allowed to tend to zero while p = qa remains

nonzero. The dipole potential decreases with distance as 1´r

2

, whatever

the angle 0. As we predicted, this decrease is faster than 1´r because of the

cancellation of the ®rst-order contributions of the positive and negative

charges.

We have chosen the z-axis to lie along the line joining the charges of

the dipole. The vector p pointing along the z-axis and with magnitude p is

called the dipole moment. In terms of this vector, the dipole potential is

c(r) =

p r

4pc

0

r

3

. (15.34)

This expression makes no mention of the variable 0 and it is in fact

correct whatever may be the orientation of the dipole moment with

respect to the z-axis.

The general relation between the potential and the electric ®eld is E(r) =

÷grad c(r) (eqn (15.31)). In spherical polar coordinates the r-, 0-, and

· components of E(r) are in the directions of the unit vectors labelled

z

The expansion of 1´r in

polar coordinates

z

Expressing the dipole

potential in terms of the dipole

moment

THE ELECTROSTATI C POTENTI AL 563

e

r

, e

0

, and e

·

in Fig 15.23. The component E

r

points directly away from

the origin. The component E

0

is tangential to a circle passing through P

having constant r and ·, in the direction of increasing 0. Similarly, E

·

is

tangential to a circle passing through P having constant r and ·, in the

direction of increasing ·. In terms of the potential, the components are

E

r

= ÷

0c

0r

; E

0

= ÷

1

r

0c

00

; E

·

= ÷

1

r sin 0

0c

0·

. (15.35)

Here there is no variation with · and the components are

E

r

=

p cos 0

2pc

0

r

3

; E

0

=

p sin 0

4pc

0

r

3

; E

·

= 0. (15.36)

The electric ®eld lines given by eqn (15.36) for small a´r are shown in

Fig 15.24. This ®gure applies to any plane that includes the z-axis. Both

the outward component E

r

of the electric ®eld and the component E

0

following circles of constant r and constant · are proportional to 1´r

3

,

falling off with distance faster than the ®eld due to a single charge. The

terms in higher powers of a´r, which we have neglected, decrease faster

still. Electrically neutral molecules may possess a dipole moment and,

although their dipole ®elds may cause important interactions with other

molecules, the higher terms are almost always negligible.

15.5 Electric ®elds in matter

Macroscopic electric ®elds

Inside a single atom the electric ®eld changes very rapidly with distance.

The atomic nucleus is extremely small, even on the atomic scale, and it

carries a charge Ze, where Z is the atomic number of the atom (which

determines the chemistry of the atom) and e is the electronic charge.

Close to the nucleus the positive charge on the nucleus is all that matters

and the ®eld is directed away from the nucleus. Further out, the negative

charge on the electrons tends to cancel out the effect of the nucleus, and

outside the atom the ®eld is very small. On a microscopic scale these

changes of ®eld within an atom are extremely important, and indeed in

Chapter 11 the attraction given by Coulomb's law between an electron

and a proton is used to work out the properties of the hydrogen atom.

In this section we are concerned with the electrical behaviour of pieces

of matter made up of an emormous number of atoms. The ®elds within

individual atoms are not of interest: we need to know how the average

®eld varies over volumes large enough to contain very many atoms. Such

an average ®eld is called a macroscopic ®eld, to distinguish it from the

microscopic ®eld, which varies rapidly within atoms.

Fig. 15.23 The arrows show the

directions of the electric ®eld com-

ponents E

r

, E

0

, and E

·

at the point P

that has spherical polar coordinates

(r, 0, ·).

Fig. 15.24 The dipole ®eld due to

a very small dipole with dipole

moment p.

564 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

Before discussing the macroscopic ®eld in an assembly of many atoms,

consider the average ®eld in a volume containing a single electrically

neutral atom such as the inert gas argon. The atom is spherically

symmetric, so that the ®eld within it is always pointing away from the

centre of the atom. The ®eld has a high value near the centre, like the ®eld

around a point charge, but it falls away even faster with distance because

of the negative charge on the electrons. To work out the average ®eld, you

have to remember that averaging a vector quantity is a bit different from

averaging a scalar quantity. Directions as well as magnitudes must be

taken into account. For a particular point with position vector r with

respect to an origin at the centre of the argon atom, the ®eld points in the

same direction as r. At the point diametrically opposite, which has

position vector ÷r, the ®eld has the same magnitude but is in the

opposite direction to the ®eld at r. The sum of the ®elds at r and ÷r is

zero. The same applies to all possible points r, and the average ®eld in a

volume including the atom is zero.

The example of an inert gas is a special case because the atoms are

spherically symmetric. However, except for some special materials, in the

absence of any electric ®eld applied from outside, the macroscopic electric

®eld in electrically neutral matter is zero. When charges are present, it is

not necessary to calculate the macroscopic ®eld by adding up the

contributions from every single particle carrying a charge ±e and then

®nd the averageÐmost of the contributions just cancel out. The average

charge is determined within a volume small compared with everyday

objects, but still large enough to contain many atoms. The electric ®eld

caused by this average charge is then calculated.

Suppose that dV

j

is a small volume located at a point having a position

vector r

j

with respect to the origin. Let the net amount of charge within

dV

j

be j(r

j

)dV

j

: j(r

j

) is thus the charge density, that is, charge per unit

volume, measured in coulombs per cubic metre. Now divide up the whole

of the region containing charge into a lot of small volumes dV

j

. Each

contributes to the macroscopic electric ®eld, which by substitution in

eqn (15.11) is

E(r) =

1

4pc

0

¸

j

j(r

j

)(r ÷r

j

)dV

j

[r ÷r

j

[

3

. (15.37)

The average charge density j(r

j

) varies smoothly with the position r

j

and

it is legitimate to replace the sum in eqn (15.37) with an integral, even

though we started with volumes dV

j

that are large enough to contain

many atoms. The macroscopic ®eld becomes

E(r) =

1

4pc

0

volume

j(r

/

)(r ÷r

/

)dV

/

[r ÷r

/

[

3

(15.38)

z

The average ®eld due to

electrically neutral atoms is

zero

z

Macroscopic ®elds are

calculated from average charge

densities

ELECTRI C FI ELDS I N MATTER 565

where the integral, labelled volume, is over all volumes that contain a

net charge. From now on, when we refer to an electric ®eld E(r) without

stating whether it is a microscopic or macroscopic ®eld, we shall mean the

macroscopic ®eld that has been averaged over many atoms.

As already mentioned, the macroscopic electric ®eld in electrically

neutral matter is zero if there is no external electric ®eld. However, if an

object is placed in an electric ®eld, this ®eld is modi®ed by the presence

of the matter. To investigate how this comes about, we must consider

electrical conductors and insulators separately.

Conductors in electric ®elds

Materials like copper and aluminium that are good electrical conductors

are able to carry electric current because some of the electrons in the

material are free to move. These electrons, which are called conduction

electrons, are not ®xed to particular atoms, but are continually moving

through the material. In the absence of an electric ®eld there is no net

¯ow of charge, because the electrons are moving at random in all

directions. However, if a steady electric ®eld is applied, electrons, each

carrying a charge ÷e, experience a force in the opposite direction to the

®eld. There is a net ¯ow in this direction, and the ¯ow may continue for

an inde®nite time if the conductor is part of a complete electrical circuit.

On the other hand, if the conductor is isolated, the electrons cannot

continue to move when they reach the boundaries of the conductor. In

the slab of conductor shown in Fig 15.25, for example, the electric ®eld

pointing to the right causes electrons to migrate from the right-hand side

to the left-hand side. Negatively charged electrons accumulate on the left-

hand surface, and the de®cit on the right-hand side causes a net positive

charge to occur there.

The charges appearing on the surface of a conductor are called induced

charges. The induced charges themselves generate an electric ®eld

directed away from the positive charges towards the negative charges,

tending to cancel out the external ®eld. Conduction electrons will

continue to ¯ow, however small may be the resultant electric ®eld, and

they ¯ow until the electric ®eld within the conductor is zero. The

disposition of surface charges depends on the shape of the conductor and

is, in general, very dif®cult to work out. Whatever the shape, the charges

nevertheless arrange themselves so that the ®eld inside the conductor

is exactly zero. This applies to any material that contains conduction

electrons, and not just to very good conductors like copper. The

semiconductors silicon and germanium, for example, have conduction

electron densities billions of times smaller than copper at room

temperature but, when placed in a steady external ®eld, they also have

zero ®eld inside.

Fig. 15.25 Charges migrate to the

surface of a conductor to ensure that

the electric ®eld is zero inside the

conductor.

z

The electrostatic ®eld inside

a conductor is zero

566 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

Because the electric ®eld is zero throughout the conductor, its whole

volume is at the same potential. In particular, its surface is an equi-

potential surface. Since ®eld lines and equipotentials are always perpen-

dicular to one another, the external ®eld is normal to any conducting

surface. Using Gauss's law we can relate the magnitude of the electric ®eld

to the amount of charge on the conducting surface. In Fig 15.26 the

closed surface o is shaped like a pillbox. The curved surface is parallel to

the electric ®eld and there is no ¯ux through it. The ¯at surfaces of the

pillbox, each of area dS, are parallel to the conducting surface, one inside

and one outside the conductor. The electric ®eld and hence the ¯ux are

zero on the inside. The total ¯ux out of o is E dS and, if the charge

inside the pillbox is dQ, Gauss's law gives

o

E dS = EdS = dQ´c

0

or

c

0

E = dQ´dS = o (15.39)

where o is the surface charge density, which is measured in coulombs per

square metre (Cm

÷2

). In the simple example of slab geometry illustrated

in Fig 15.26 the surface charge density is given directly in terms of the

external ®eld by eqn (15.39).

For other shapes of conductor the surface charge density must be

distributed in such a way as to ensure that the external ®eld is normal to

the conducting surface. This is illustrated schematically in Fig 15.27 which

shows a conducting sphere in an electric ®eld that is uniform far from the

sphere. Close to the sphere the surface charges modify the ®eld lines so

that they curve towards the sphere and meet it normally.

Exercise 15.5 The electric ®eld at the surface of a conductor is

10

4

Vcm

÷1

. What is the surface charge density on the conductor, and

what average area has a charge equal to one electronic charge?

Answer The coulomb is a very large unit, and charge is frequently

expressed in microcoulombs (1 mC = 10

÷6

C). The surface charge in

this exercise is 8.85 mCm

÷2

. This is equivalent to one electronic charge

on an area 1.8 ×10

÷14

m

2

or 1.8 ×10

4

nm

2

, an area large enough to

accommodate about one million atoms.

The induced charges on the surface of a conductor are located in a very

thin layer. The amount of induced charge is given by the surface charge

density o and a surface integral must be added to eqn (15.38) to account

Fig. 15.26 Gauss's theorem relates

the induced surface charge to the

electric ®eld outside the conductor.

Fig. 15.27 When a conducting

sphere is placed in an external

electric ®eld E, the ®eld lines bend to

meet the conducting surface

normally.

ELECTRI C FI ELDS I N MATTER 567

for the contribution of the induced charges to the ®eld. Including the

surface charges, the general expression for the macroscopic electric ®eld is

E(r) =

1

4¬c

0

volume

j(r

/

)(r ÷r

/

) dV

/

[r ÷r

/

[

3

÷

1

4¬c

0

surface

o(r

/

)(r ÷r

/

) dS

/

[r ÷r

/

[

3

(15.40)

where the labels volume and surface indicate that the volume integral is

over all volumes containing a volume charge density and the surface

integral is over all surfaces on which there is a surface charge density.

Similarly, the potential is

c(r) =

1

4¬c

0

volume

j(r

/

)dV

/

[r ÷r

/

[

÷

1

4¬c

0

surface

o(r

/

)dS

/

[r ÷r

/

[

. (15.41)

Insulators in electric ®elds

In an insulator, all the electrons are ®xed to particular atoms. Over long

time periods, practically no migration of charge occurs when an

insulating material is placed in an electric ®eld. We can understand

how the material responds to the presence of a steady ®eld by considering

just one atom.

Imagine that a neutral atom is supported so that it does not fall under

gravity, but is free to move horizontally. If a horizontal electric ®eld is

switched on, there is no net force on the atom since its charge is zero.

However, the nucleus and the electrons experience forces in opposite

directions and they tend to move apart, without shifting the centre of

mass of the atom. As the centre of the distribution of negatively charged

electrons moves away from the positively charged nucleus, the mutual

attraction of nucleus and electrons creates a restoring force that balances

the force caused by the external ®eld.

Under all conditions that are met in the laboratory, the restoring force

is proportional to the distance x between the nucleus and the centre of the

electron distribution. Calling the constant of proportionality k, the

restoring force is kx. Figure 15.28 shows the forces acting on the nucleus,

but greatly exaggerates the relative movement of the electrons and the

nucleus: on the scale of the ®gure, the shift would not be visible for

realistic electric ®elds. For an atom with atomic number Z and nuclear

charge Ze, the force due to the external ®eld E is ZeE. This force is

balanced by the restoring force when kx = ZeE, that is when x = ZeE´k.

When the nucleus and the centre of electronic charge do not coincide,

the atom is said to be polarized. As for the point charges discussed in

Section 15.4, the vector in the x-direction and with magnitude equal to

z

Induced charges on the

surfaces of conductors

contribute to the electric ®eld

Fig. 15.28 The force on the nucleus

of the atom due to the electric ®eld

E is balanced by a restoring force

caused by the mutual attraction of

the nucleus and the electrons.

568 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

the product of the distance x and the charge Ze is called the dipole

moment of the atom and is measured in coulomb metres (Cm). The

dipole moment is denoted by the vector p: the vectors x, p, and E all

point in the same direction and

p = Zex =

(Ze)

2

k

E = cc

0

E (15.42)

where the constant c is called the polarizability of the atom.

How does polarization affect the macroscopic electric ®eld in an

insulator? Let us ®rst consider a slab of uniform insulating material

placed in an electric ®eld normal to the faces of the slab. Within the slab

the macroscopic electric ®eld must be in the same direction as the ®eld

ouside the slab, and we shall assume for the moment that it is constant

throughout the slab, having a value E

int

, say. Each atom of the insulator

acquires a dipole momen cc

0

E

int

and, according to eqn (15.42), the centre

of the electron distribution is displaced a distance cc

0

E

int

´Ze from the

nucleus.

The nucleus is much more massive than the electrons, and the centre of

mass almost coincides with the nucleus. We may picture the polarization

as if only the electrons move: this simpli®es the argument without

altering the results. Figure 15.29 represents a section through a slab of

insulator placed in an electric ®eld perpendicular to the sides of the slab.

The dashed lines show the boundaries of imaginary closed boxes with

faces of area dS perpendicular to the ®eld: we shall apply Gauss's law to

these boxes.

When the atoms are polarized, electrons move through both surfaces of

the box (b), which is completely inside the insulator. Negative charge has

moved out of the left-hand side of the box, but just as much has moved in

at the right-hand side. The net charge inside the box is zero, as it was

before the atoms were polarized. Gauss's law tells us that the net ¯ux of E

out of the box is zero. This requires the ¯ux entering the left-hand side to

equal the ¯ux leaving the right-hand side, and the assumption that the

®eld is uniform within the slab is justi®ed.

Now look at the box (c), which straddles the right-hand surface of the

insulator. Negative charge has moved out of the left-hand side of the box

but there are no atoms at the right-hand side and the box has acquired a

net positive charge. If the number of atoms per unit volume is N, the

charge density of electrons is ÷NZe. All the electrons in the slab have

moved the same distance x, and the charge moving out of the area dS on

the left of the box is ÷NZexdS = ÷NpdS. The box now encloses a net

charge ÷NpdS, and the surface charge density caused by polarization is

o

p

= Np. The opposite face of the slab acquires a surface charge density

(÷Np) as electrons move into box (a). The slab as a whole is electrically

neutral, as it must be since it is composed entirely of neutral atoms.

Fig. 15.29 The movement of

charge in the slab of insulator builds

up charge on the surface but leaves

the interior electrically neutral.

ELECTRI C FI ELDS I N MATTER 569

If the surface of the insulator is at an angle 0 to the electric ®eld, as in

Fig 15.30, the surface charge density is reduced. If the area of the insulator

surface inside the box is dS, the projected area normal to the ®eld is

dS cos 0. The net charge inside the box is now o

p

dS = NpdS cos 0. At a

surface where the electric ®eld enters the insulator, o

p

is given by the same

expression except for a minus sign. Remembering that the vector dS is the

outward normal to the surface, we ®nd that both the sign of the surface

charge density o

p

and its angular dependence can be expressed concisely

by using the vector notation

o

p

dS = Np dS = P dS (15.43)

where the vector P = Np is the dipole moment per unit volume of the

insulator. The vector P is called the polarization density. The

polarization density, like the dipole moment of a single atom, is in the

direction from negative to positive polarization surface charge.

The polarization density is useful because it is related to the electric

®eld inside the polarized material. In slab geometry this relation is easily

found from Gauss's law. The closed surface o in Fig 15.31 has surfaces of

area dS normal to the ®eld. The polarization charge within o is

o

p

dS = PdS. According to Gauss's law the net ¯ux out of o is therefore

PdS´c

0

. The ®eld entering o from the left is E

int

and the ®eld leaving on

the right is E

ext

, and the net ¯ux is (E

ext

÷E

int

)dS = PdS´c

0

. Hence

E

ext

= E

int

÷P´c

0

(15.44)

or, since P = Np = Ncc

0

E

int

,

E

ext

= E

int

1 ÷Nc ( ) = E

int

(1 ÷.

E

). (15.45)

The dimensionless constant .

E

= Nc is called the electric suscept-

ibility of the insulating material. The presence of the polarization charges

has reduced the ®eld inside the insulator by the factor (1 ÷.

E

). This is

represented by drawing a reduced density of lines inside: in Fig 15.31

some lines of the external ®eld end on negative polarization charges and

start on positive polarization charges.

Worked Example 15.6 At 20

·

C and one atmosphere pressure helium gas

contains 2.7 ×10

25

atoms m

÷3

, and the electric susceptibility of the gas is

6.5 ×10

÷5

. Calculate the separation of the centres of the positive and

negative charges in a helium atom when it is placed in an electric ®eld of

10

6

Vm

÷1

.

Answer From eqns (15.42) and (15.45) the separation is

x =

cc

0

E

Ze

=

.

E

c

0

E

ZeN

.

Fig. 15.30 If the ®eld inside the

insulator is not perpendicular to its

surface, the charges move the same

distance, but the surface charge is

now spread out over a bigger area.

Fig. 15.31 The induced surface

charge is related to the electric ®eld

inside and outside the insulator.

570 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

Substituting the values given, the separation is

6.5 ×10

÷5

×8.85 ×10

÷12

×10

6

2 ×1.6 ×10

÷19

×2.7 ×10

25

= 6.7 ×10

÷17

m = 6.7 ×10

÷8

nm,

a shift of about one-millionth of the radius of the helium atom.

Equation (15.45) has only been proved for slab geometry. The relation

between internal and external ®elds for other shapes of insulator is more

complicated, and we shall not discuss it in detail here. The direction of the

®eld as well as the magnitude may change at the boundary of an insulator.

Figure 15.32 shows the ®eld lines when an insulating sphere is placed in

a uniform external ®eld. The external ®eld lines are bent towards the

sphere, rather like the ®eld pattern for the conducting sphere. The sphere

is a specially simple case that can be solved exactly. The ®eld inside the

sphere is uniform: the ®eld inside has a smaller magnitude than the ®eld

outside because of polarization charges on the surface of the sphere.

Polar molecules

The atoms in a solid make small vibrations about ®xed positions. Each

atom is locked in place surrounded by neighbouring atoms, keeping the

same set of neighbours over long periods. When the solid is heated, the

vibrations become more and more energetic, until at the melting point

atoms escape from their ®xed positions and the solid turns into a liquid.

In many liquids the atoms do not move independently. They remain as

parts of a molecule with a ®xed structure. The molecules are the units that

change their positions and orientations with respect to their neighbours.

The water molecule, for example, consists of one oxygen atom and two

hydrogen atoms. As shown in Fig 15.33, the hydrogen and oxygen atoms

do not lie on a straight line. (The structure of the water molecule is brie¯y

explained in Section 11.4.) Furthermore, the oxygen atom has more than

its share of the electrons in the molecule, so that there is excess negative

charge near the oxygen atom and excess positive charge near the

hydrogen atoms. The centre of positive charge does not coincide with the

centre of negative charge, and the molecule has a dipole moment.

Fig. 15.32 The ®eld lines of an

insulating sphere placed in an

external electric ®eld E. The ®eld

changes direction at the surface

of the sphere.

Fig. 15.33 The centres of positive

and negative charge do not coincide

in the water molecule, and it has a

dipole moment.

Polarization charge density

Provided that an insulator is uniform, polarization

charges appear only on the surface. For a non-uniform

insulator there may be polarization charges distributed

throughout its volume. For example, if an insulator

consists of atoms that all have the same polarizability but

a variable density, more charge moves in a more dense

region than in a less dense one, and there is a net

polarization charge per unit volume, which we shall

denote by j

p

. Once the distribution of polarization

charges is known, the electric ®eld and potential are

given by eqns (15.40) and (15.41), including polarization

charges, induced charges on conductors, and distribu-

tions of free charge in the charge densities j and o.

z

Polarization charge density

ELECTRI C FI ELDS I N MATTER 571

Molecules like water that possess a dipole moment are called polar

molecules. Although the water molecule is polar, in the absence of an

external electric ®eld the macroscopic electric ®eld inside a volume of

water is zero. This is because thermal motion ensures that all directions

are equally likely for the dipoles and, on average, their contributions to

the electric ®eld cancel out.

When a polar liquid or gas is placed in an electric ®eld, electrons and

nuclei are pushed in opposite directions just as in an insulating solid, and

as a result the liquid acquires a net dipole moment per unit volume.

There is an additional effect for polar molecules that is usually more

important. The dipole moments, which were initially randomly oriented,

are partially lined up by the ®eld so that they are more likely to be

pointing in the direction of the ®eld than opposite to it.

A polar molecule is represented in Fig 15.34 by positive and negative

point charges with the same dipole moment p = qa as the moleculeÐthe

dipole moment is all that is needed for working out the effect of a

uniform electric ®eld acting on the molecule. The ®eld exerts a couple on

the molecule, tending to rotate it so that the dipole moment and the ®eld

point in the same direction. The ®gure shows that, when the dipole is at

an angle 0 to the ®eld, there is a couple qaE sin 0 = pE sin 0 acting on the

dipole. This couple is zero for 0 = 0

·

and for 0 = 180

·

. At 0 = 0

·

the

dipole is in stable equilibrium; when rotated through a small angle the

couple will turn the dipole back to 0 = 0

·

. At 0 = 180

·

the dipole is in a

position of unstable equilibrium; after a small de¯ection it will ¯ip over

to 0 = 0

·

.

Work is done by the electric ®eld when it causes the dipole to rotate.

The potential energy of the dipole therefore depends on its orientation.

In Fig 15.35 equipotential surfaces passing through the charges ÷q and

÷q are at potentials c

÷

and c

÷

respectively. From eqn (15.17) the

potential energy of the charge ÷q is ÷qc

÷

and, similarly, the potential

energy of ÷q is ÷qc

÷

. The potential energy of the dipole in the ®eld is

thus q(c

÷

÷c

÷

). The difference between the potential energies is given in

terms of the ®eld by eqn (15.29) as q(c

÷

÷c

÷

) = ÷E a, leading to the

potential energy of the dipole

U

dipole

(0) = q(c

÷

÷c

÷

) = ÷qE a = ÷p E = ÷pE cos 0. (15.46)

In calculating this potential we have not considered the energy of each

charge ±q due to the presence of the other. For a real molecule this

additional energy contributes to the binding energy of the molecule,

which does not change as the molecule is rotated in electric ®elds that can

be realized in practice.

If there were no thermal motion, all the dipoles in a polar liquid would

line up with the ®eld. But the molecules are continually colliding with

their neighbours. There is a con¯ict between the thermal motion that

Fig. 15.34 The dipole placed in an

electric ®eld experiences a couple.

Fig. 15.35 The potential energy of

the dipole depends on its orienta-

tion in the ®eld.

z

Thermal motion counteracts

the tendency of dipoles to line

up along the electric ®eld

572 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

tends to randomize the orientation of the molecules and the couple due

to the electric ®eld trying to line them up. The effect of thermal motion is

discussed in Section 12.6, where it is explained that the probability of

occurrence of states with different energies depends on the comparison of

the energy difference with a thermal energy k

B

T. Here k

B

is a universal

constant called Boltzmann's constant and T is the absolute temperature

measured in kelvins.

In a liquid the electric ®eld acting on each molecule is the internal ®eld

E

int

, and the potential energy is ÷p E

int

. At ambient temperatures the

ratio pE

int

´k

B

T is always small, and the molecular dipoles have only a

slight tendency to line up with the ®eld. The molecular dipole moment

averaged over many molecules has a magnitude

1

3

(pE

int

´k

B

T) ×p. The

average dipole moment is in the direction of the ®eld and, if there are N

molecules per unit volume, the polarization density P, which is the dipole

moment per unit volume, is

P =

Np

2

3k

B

T

E

int

. (15.47)

This result is proved in the box that follows.

The polarization density arising from the polarizability of the

molecules adds to that arising from the permanent dipole moment. For

an isotropic liquid or gas made up of molecules with a dipole moment of

magnitude p and polarizability c, combining the results of eqns (15.45)

and (15.47) leads to an electric susceptibility

.

E

= N c ÷

p

2

3c

0

k

B

T

. (15.48)

The probability of ®nding a molecule in a state with energy U

dipole

is given

by the Boltzmann factor exp(÷U

dipole

´k

B

T) (expression (12.30)). Taking

the energy U

dipole

from eqn (15.46), the probability of ®nding a dipole

in a polar liquid at an orientation 0 to an external electric ®eld is

proportional to

exp

÷U

dipole

(0)

k

B

T

= exp

÷pE

int

cos 0

k

B

T

.

When (pE

int

´k

B

T) is small, the exponential function may be expanded in

a Taylor series keeping only the ®rst term,

exp

÷pE

int

cos 0

k

B

T

= 1 ÷

pE

int

cos 0

k

B

T

.

When the ®eld E

int

is zero, all directions are equally probable, and the

probability of ®nding a dipole lying in the range of solid angle d1 is

d1´4p = sin 0d0dc´4p. Since all values of c are equally probable, only

ELECTRI C FI ELDS I N MATTER 573

the component p cos 0 of the dipole moment in the direction of E

int

contributes to the average dipole moment, which is

1

4p

2p

c=0

p

0=0

p cos 0 1 ÷

pE

int

cos 0

k

B

T

¸

sin 0 d0 dc =

p

2

E

int

3k

B

T

.

If there are N molecules per unit volume, the polarization density P,

which is the dipole moment per unit volume, is

P =

Np

2

3k

B

T

E

int

.

15.6 Capacitors

Capacitors are used to store electric charge. They consist of a pair of

conductors with a potential difference maintained between them. Large

capacitors installed in oil-®lled tanks and operating with very high voltage

differenceÐup to many thousands of voltsÐmay accumulate large

amounts of electrical potential energy. At the other end of the scale

memory chips incorporate millions of tiny capacitors, each of which

represents the number 1 or 0 depending on whether they are charged or

uncharged. These memory capacitors operate with a few volts potential

difference between conductors separated by silicon oxide insulators.

Capacitors also have practical applications in electrical circuits carrying

currents that vary with time: this is discussed in Chapter 18.

The conductors in a capacitor are usually close together and separated

by a solid insulator. To study the properties of capacitors we shall start

by considering a parallel plate capacitor consisting of two parallel

conducting plates placed opposite to one another in vacuum as shown in

Fig 15.36. Suppose that there is a potential difference V between the

plates. In the diagram one plate is at earth potential (c = 0) and the other

is at a positive potential V. This choice is only for de®niteness and, in

fact, the properties of the capacitor depend only on the potential

difference and not on the absolute values of the potentials on the plates.

The electric ®eld points in the direction of decreasing potential, and in

the centre of the capacitor the ®eld lines are straight from one plate to the

other. Near the edges of the plates the ®eld lines are still normal to the

conducting surfaces, which are equipotentials, but they bulge out as

shown and the electric ®eld does extend a little way outside the region

between the plates. However, these edge effects are rather small and, if, as

is usually the case, the separation of the plates is very small compared to

their length and width, it is a good approximation to assume that the ®eld

lines all pass straight across the gap between the plates and that the ®eld

outside is zero. The distance between the plates is d and, since their

Fig. 15.36 Equal and opposite

induced charges occur on the plates

of the capacitor when they are held

at different potentials.

574 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

potential difference is V, the magnitude of the electric ®eld is E = V´d,

from eqn (15.28). Electric ®eld lines start on positive charges, and positive

charges are induced on the plate at potential V. According to eqn (15.39)

the surface density of the induced charges is o = c

0

E = c

0

V´d. Negative

charges with the same magnitude of surface charge density are induced on

the plate at earth potential where the ®eld lines terminate.

For plates of area S, the total charge on the plate at potential V is

Q = oS = c

0

VS´d. Similarly, an induced charge ÷Q is located on the other

plate. The charges ±Q on the plates are proportional to the potential

difference, and the proportionality constant is called the capacitance of

the capacitor. The capacitance is denoted by the symbol C,

Q = CV (15.49)

where

C =

c

0

S

d

(15.50)

for a parallel plate capacitor in vacuum. The unit of capacitance is the

farad (symbol F). The farad, which has its magnitude ®xed by other SI

units, is impracticably large, and capacitances are usually quoted in

microfarads (1 mF = 10

÷6

F), nanofarads (1 nF = 10

÷9

F), or picofarads

(1 pF = 10

÷12

F).

The capacitance C is determined by the dimensions and geometrical

arrangement of the capacitor. Whatever the shape and size of two

conductors, it is always true that, when a potential difference is

maintained between them, equal and opposite charges are induced on

the conducting surface and the magnitude of the charge is proportional to

the potential difference. Equation (15.49) applies, with a value of the

capacitance determined by the geometry of the two conductors. Since the

charges on the conductors are equal and opposite, the total charge on any

capacitor is zero. The ¯ux of the electric ®eld through a surface enclosing

the capacitor is therefore zero and, apart from the small `fringing' ®elds

near the edges of the conductors, the ®eld outside the capacitor is

everywhere zero.

Relative permittivity

The capacitance of a parallel plate capacitor is given by eqn (15.50) only if

there is no matter between the plates, that is, the capacitor is in vacuum.

Figure 15.37(a) shows such a capacitor with charges ±Q on its plates. If

the capacitor is isolated, so that charge cannot ¯ow on to or away from

the plates, the charge remains the same if a slab of insulator is placed

between the plates as in Fig 15.37(b). The slab is polarized and the electric

®eld inside the insulator is less than the ®eld outside. Consequently, the

z

The charge on the plates of

a capacitor is proportional to

the voltage between them

Fig. 15.37 The capacitance is

increased by inserting dielectric

material between the plates of the

capacitor.

CAPACI TORS 575

potential difference between the plates is also reduced, although

the charge on them is unaltered. From eqn (15.45), the ®eld inside

the insulator is smaller than the ®eld outside by the factor (1 ÷.

E

). If the

insulator ®lls the whole of the space between the plates, the ®eld has the

reduced value everywhere between the plates, and the potential difference

is also reduced by the factor (1 ÷.

E

). The charges on the plates have

remained the same, and the capacitance C = Q´V (from eqn 15.44)) has

increased by this factor,

capacitance with insulator between the plates

capacitance in vacuum

= 1 ÷.

E

= c. (15.51)

The factor c by which the capacitance is increased by the insertion of

the insulating material is called the relative permittivity. An older name

for this factor is dielectric constant and, in the context of discussing the

behaviour of electric ®elds, insulating materials are still usually referred to

as dielectric materials. The relative permittivities of some dielectric

materials are given in Table 15.1.

The relative permittivity is simply a number for materials that are

isotropic, that is, materials that have no directional properties. In some

crystals induced dipole moments are not necessarily in the same direction

as the applied ®eld, but depend on the orientation of the ®eld to the

crystal axes. The equations we have derived are not then valid. Such

crystals have important applications in optics because of their effects on

the rapidly varying electric ®elds in visible light, but only isotropic

materials are used in capacitors. Provided that a capacitor is completely

®lled with a uniform dielectric material, the result that its capacitance is

enhanced by the factor c applies to all capacitors and not only to those

with slab geometry.

Worked Example 15.7 A coaxial cable consists of a wire with diameter

1 mm, passing through the centre of a polyethylene cylinder of diameter

3.5 mm, which is covered with a conducting coat made by braiding ®ne

wires. The outer conductor is held at earth potential. Calculate the

capacitance of a 1 m length of the cable.

Answer The cable has cylindrical symmetry and Gauss's law can be used

to determine how the ®eld varies within the cable. First, imagine that

there is no dielectric material between the conductors. Suppose that there

is a positive charge i per unit length of the inner wire and a charge ÷i

per unit length on the outer conductor, as shown in Fig 15.38. If the

electric ®eld at a point at a distance r from the axis of the cable has a

magnitude E(r), the ¯ux of E out of a cylinder of radius r and length /

centred on the axis is 2pr/E(r) = i/´c

0

. Hence E(r) = i´(2pc

0

r). The

Table 15.1 Relative permittivities of

some materials, measured in steady

®elds. The value for silicon is

included although it is too good a

conductor to be used as the

dielectric material in a capacitor.

However, the relative permittivity of

semiconductors in steady ®elds has

an important in¯uence on their

behaviour

Material Relative

permittivity c

Mica 7.0

Soda glass 7.5

Polyethylene 2.3

Silicon oxide 3.9

Silicon 11.8

Gas 10

4

(c ÷1)

Air 5.4

Ne 1.3

Fig. 15.38 (a) A coaxial cable con-

sists of a wire through the centre of a

cylinder of insulating material within

an outer conductor. A cross-section

through the cable is shown in (b).

576 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

potential difference between points at r and r ÷dr is dc = ÷E(r)dr from

eqn (15.29). The potential difference between radii a and b is

V =

b

a

dc = ÷

b

a

i

2pc

0

dr

r

=

i

2pc

0

ln

b

a

,

and the capacitance of a 1 metre length of cable is

C =

i

V

=

2pc

0

ln(b´a)

.

When the space between the conductors is ®lled with polyethylene, the

capacitance per unit length is increased to 2pcc

0

´ ln(b´a). The relative

permittivity of polyethylene is listed in Table 15.1 as 2.3. For a = 0.5 mm

and b = 1.75 mm, the capacitance of 1 metre is 1.0 ×10

÷10

F or 100 pF.

Coaxial cables of this kind are frequently used to carry signals from one

piece of equipment to another, for example, from a receiving antenna to a

television set.

Stored energy

How much potential energy is stored in a capacitor when its plates have a

potential difference V? We can work this out by starting with an

uncharged capacitor and gradually building up the charge, which is at all

times linked to the potential difference by eqn (15.49). Again suppose

that one plate is held at earth potential and the other carries a positive

charge as in Fig 15.36. When the positive charge has built up to a value

÷Q

/

the potential on the left-hand plate is V

/

= Q

/

´C. If further charge

dQ

/

is moved from a great distance from the capacitor, where the

potential is zero, work V

/

dQ

/

= Q

/

dQ

/

´C must be done. An extra charge

÷dQ

/

is induced on the right-hand plate, but no work is required for this

since the negative charge does not change its potential. The total work

done in building up charges ±Q on the plates of an initially uncharged

capacitor, which is the potential energy stored by the capacitor, is

U =

Q

0

Q

/

dQ

/

C

=

1

2

Q

2

C

=

1

2

CV

2

. (15.52)

For a 1 mC capacitor with 100 V across the plates, the stored energy is thus

1

2

×10

÷6

×10

4

= 5 ×10

÷3

J.

Exercise 15.6 A potential difference of 10 volts is maintained between the

two conductors of the coaxial cable in Worked example 15.7. Calculate

the energy stored in a 1 metre length.

Answer 5 ×10

÷9

J.

CAPACI TORS 577

Energy density of the electric ®eld

For a parallel plate capacitor with plates of area S separated by a distance

d in vacuum, the capacitance is given by eqn (15.50) as C = c

0

S´d. If the

potential difference between the plates is V, the energy stored by the

capacitor is

1

2

CV

2

(eqn (15.52)). We may equally well express this energy

in terms of the ®eld between the plates. Since V = Ed, the energy can be

written as

1

2

C(Ed)

2

=

1

2

c

0

E

2

Sd. Now the volume of the capacitor is Sd

and we may think of the amount of stored energy as

1

2

c

0

E

2

per unit

volume. The same expression also applies to capacitors that do not have

slab geometry, and we can write the stored energy as

U =

1

2

CV

2

=

1

2

V

c

0

E

2

dV (15.53)

where V is the volume where the electric ®eld due to the capacitor is

nonzero. For a steady ®eld it is not really possible to locate the energy

in a particular region of space and associating the energy with the ®eld

does not lead to any advantage in calculations. However, when there are

rapidly varying ®elds, as, for example, in the antenna of a mobile

telephone, energy is transmitted from one place to another by radiation.

It turns out that the energy density of the electric ®eld that we have

calculated for steady ®elds also applies to radiated energy. Similar

expressions, which we shall meet in the next chapter, apply to magnetic

®elds, and it is energy carried by both electric and magnetic ®elds that

constitutes electromagnetic radiation. The theory of radiation is beyond

the scope of this book, but it is important to realize that a thorough grasp

of the behaviour of electric and magnetic ®elds is required before

radiation can be understood.

Problems

Level 1

15.1 Calculate the force between two electrons that are

0.1 nm apart.

15.2 Two charges +q and one charge ÷q are placed at

the corners of an equilateral triangle of side a. What is

the magnitude and direction of the force on the

charge ÷q?

15.3 A conducting sphere of radius R carries a total

charge Q. Draw a diagram showing the electric

®eld as a function of distance from the centre of the

sphere.

15.4 The sphere in Exercise 15.3 is hollow, having an

uncharged conducting concentric sphere of radius R

1

inside the conductor. How much charge is there on the

inner surface of the hollow sphere?

15.5 The maximum electric ®eld that can be sustained

before breakdown in dry air is about 5 ×10

6

Vm

÷1

.

What is the minimum radius of curvature that can be

578 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

tolerated on the corners of a box that is to be raised to

100 kilovolts?

15.6 A charge q is at a distance d from a thin wire

carrying a charge i Cm

÷1

. What is the force on the

charge q?

15.7 Two parallel thin wires, each carrying a charge per

unit length i Cm

÷1

, are separated by a distance d. What

is the force per unit length between the wires?

15.8 Two parallel wires, each of radius R, are a distance

d apart (d 2R). One of the wires is at earth potential

and the other at a potential V. Sketch the lines of the

electric ®eld and the equipotentials around the wires. On

what part of the wires does the surface charge density

have its greatest value?

15.9 Two isolated plates are parallel to each other, One

carries a total charge Q and the other a total charge 2Q.

Use Gauss's law to ®nd out how the charges are distri-

buted on the surfaces of the plates, neglecting end effects.

15.10 A slab of material has a uniform charge density j

throughout its volume. Calculate the electric ®eld as

a function of distance from the central plane of the slab.

15.11 The nucleus of a lead atom carries a charge 82e. It

is quite a good approximation to assume that the

nucleus is a uniformly charged sphere of radius

7.5 ×10

÷15

m. Draw a diagram showing the electric

®eld as a function of distance from the centre of the

nucleus. What is its greatest value?

Level 2

15.12 Three charges ÷q, ÷q, and ÷q lie on a line and

are separated by a distance a as shown in Fig 15.39. If

the negative charges are ®xed, calculate the restoring

force for small displacements, perpendicular to the line

joining the charges, of the positive charge from its equi-

librium position half-way between the negative charges.

15.13 Two helium-®lled balloons are tied to the same

point on the ground by strings 50 cm long. Each balloon

has a lifting force of 1 N, and each has the same charge

Q. The angle between the strings is 30

·

. What is the

magnitude of Q?

15.14 A dipole consists of charges ÷q and ÷q separated

by a distance a. Derive an expression for the electric ®eld

on the axis of the dipole at a distance r from its centre, in

powers of (r´a).

15.15 Equal charges ÷q are situated at the corners of a

cube of side a. What force acts on any one of the charges,

and what is its direction?

15.16 A charge q is placed at the centre of a cube. What

is the ¯ux of the electric ®eld through one of the cube

faces? What is the ¯ux through one of the opposite faces

if the charge is placed at a corner of the cube?

15.17 A conducting sphere of radius a carries a charge

q

a

. Outside it are two thin conducting spherical shells, of

radii b and c(a < b < c) carrying charges q

b

and q

c

. The

outermost sphere is at earth potential. Obtain expres-

sions for the potentials of the other two spheres.

15.18 Using the same value for the radius of the nucleus

of the lead atom as in Problem 15.11, calculate the

electrical potential energy of the nucleus. (Hint .

Calculate the energy needed to build up the nucleus,

bringing charge from in®nity in in®nitesimal steps.)

15.19 Two dipoles, each with dipole moment

6 ×10

÷30

Cm, are placed as shown in Fig 15.40. Their

separation a is 0.4 nm. Calculate the potential energy of

the dipoles. (These values apply roughly to water

molecules.)

15.20 Calculate the energy of the dipoles in Problem

15.19 at the same separation, but when they are in line as

in Fig 15.41.

15.21 A capacitor in a random access memory consists

of a layer of SiO

2

0.1 nm thick, sandwiched between

Fig. 15.39

Fig. 15.40

Fig. 15.41

PROBLEMS 579

plane conductors each with an area of 0.6 ×10

÷12

m

2

.

The relative permittivity of SiO

2

is 3.9. Estimate the

number of electrons on the negatively charged con-

ductor when the voltage across the capacitor plates is 5 V.

15.22 Two spherical conducting surfaces have radii a

and b and the space between them is ®lled with air.

Calculate the capacitance of the two conductors.

15.23 A conducting sphere of radius 1 cm is suspended

in air. Any other conductors are far away. Estimate the

capacitance of the sphere with respect to Earth.

15.24 A parallel plate capacitor has a capacitance of

10 pF when the space between its plates is ®lled with air.

One of the plates is covered with a slab of dielectric

material of relative permittivity 7, with a thickness that is

half the distance between the plates. What is now the

value of the capacitance?

Level 3

15.25 Three charges ÷q, ÷2q, and ÷q are arranged on a

line as shown in Fig 15.42. Calculate the ®eld at a

distance r a on the line, and ®nd the leading term in

the expansion in powers of r´a.

15.26 A slab of dielecric material 2 cm thick with

relative permittivity 4.0 has a net charge density

1 mCm

÷3

that is uniformly distributed throughout the

material. Calculate the electric ®eld inside and outside

the material.

15.27 A line of charges are all separated by a distance

0.1 nm from their nearest neighbours and the magnitude

of the charges is alternately ÷e and ÷e. Calculate the

potential energy of one of the charges due to the

interaction with all the others, assuming that there is a

very large number of charges. (Hint . It will help you to

®nd the answer to make a Taylor expansion of the

function ln(1 ÷x).)

The three-dimensional equivalent of this problem

must be solved for different crystal structures to ®nd the

electrostatic contribution to the binding energy of ionic

crystals.

15.28 Three concentric cylindrical conductors have

radii 1 cm, 2 cm, and 3 cm. The space between them is

®lled with oil with a relative permittivity c = 2.2. If the

maximum ®eld that the oil can maintain without

breakdown is 5 ×10

6

Vm

÷1

, estimate the highest

voltage difference that can be achieved between the

inner and outer conductors, and the voltage between the

inner and middle conductors under these conditions.

(The maximum voltage occurs when both the inner and

middle conductors have almost the breakdown ®eld on

the outer surfaces.)

15.29 A line charge of strength i Cm

÷1

is parallel to an

earthed conducting plane and at a distance d from it,

as shown in Fig 15.43. Calculate the surface density

of the induced charge on the conducting plane as a

function of y, neglecting end effects. (The solution of

this problem requires the use of the uniqueness theorem,

which states that if an electric ®eld is known to satisfy

the conditions at the boundary of a region of space, it is

the only possible ®eld. Here the ®eld must be normal to

the conducting surface. Consider the ®eld due to two

line charges with strengths ±i and 2d apart. This ®eld

satis®es the boundary condition and in the region

between the line charge and the conductor it is the

required solution. The imaginary line charge ÷i is called

the image charge of the real line charge ÷i.)

15.30 Two parallel plane conductors are a distance d

apart. A plane sheet of charge with surface charge density

Fig. 15.42

Fig. 15.43

580 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

Some solutions and answers to Chapter 15 problems

15.1 2.3 ×10

÷8

N.

15.2 Each of the charges ÷q exerts a force q

2

´(4pc

0

a

2

)

on the charge ÷q. The horizontal components of these

forces are equal and opposite, and the net force on ÷q is

down the page, as shown in Fig 15.44, with a magnitude

F =

2q

2

4pc

0

a

2

cos 30

·

=

3

q

2

4pc

0

a

2

.

15.5 Outside a conducting sphere of radius R the

potential varies as 1´r and may be written

c(r) = c(R) ×R´r. The electric ®eld E(r) is

E(r) = ÷

0c

0r

=

Rc(R)

r

2

,

which has its maximum value c(R)´R at r = R. If the

corners of the box are rounded so that they are portions

of spheres of radius R, the ®eld close to the corners is

also c(R)´R. The minimum radius R

min

that can be

tolerated when the box is raised to a potential of 100 kV

satis®es

10

5

R

min

= 5 ×10

6

, leading to R

min

= 0.02 m or 2 cm.

15.7 The force is

i

2

2pc

0

r

Nm

÷1

.

15.9 There is a charge

3

2

Q on the outer surface of each

plate. The charges on the inner surfaces are ÷

1

2

Q for the

plate carrying a total charge 2Q and ÷

1

2

Q for the plate

carrying a total charge ÷

1

2

Q.

15.10 The electric ®eld points outwards from the centre

and at a distance x from the centre, within the slab, its

magnitude is j[x[´c

0

.

15.11 The ¯ux of the electric ®eld at a distance r from

the centre of the nucleus is due to the charge within r. If

r is less than the radius R of the nucleus, and the charge

density is j, the total charge within a sphere of radius r is

4

3

pjr

3

. The area of this sphere is 4pr

2

and the ¯ux out of

it is

4pr

2

E(r) =

4pr

3

j

3c

0

, giving E(r) =

jr

3c

0

.

Outside the nucleus the electric ®eld is the same as for a

point charge at the centre, that is, it is proportional to

1´r

2

and the maximum ®eld is at r = R.

For lead the total charge

4

3

pjR

3

= 82e, and

E

max

=

82e

4pc

0

R

2

=

(82 ×1.6 ×1)

÷19

4p ×8.85 ×10

÷12

×(7.5 ×10

÷15

)

2

~ 2 ×10

21

Vm

÷1

.

This local ®eld that exists close to the nucleus is

enormous compared to the largest electric ®eld that can

occur even over distances about the size of an atom. As

indicated in Problem 15.5, the largest electric ®eld that is

sustainable in air is only about 5 ×10

6

Vm

÷1

.

15.13 Assuming that the force between the balloons is

the same as if each were a point charge, the charge on

each balloon is 1.4 mC.

15.14 The ®eld on the axis is

qa

4pc

0

[r[

3

1 ÷

2a

r

2

÷

=

qa

4pc

0

[r[

3

for small (r´a).

Fig. 15.44

o lies between the plates at a distance x from one of

them. Calculate the induced charge on each plate.

15.31 The relative permittivity of water is 80.36 at 20

·

C

and 60.76 at 80

·

C when measured in a steady electric

®eld. The density of water is 0.9982 g cm

÷3

at 20

·

C and

0.9718 g cm

÷3

at 80

·

C. Use these data to obtain the

dipole moment and the polarizability of a water

molecule.

ANSWERS 581

The ®eld acts along the axis in the same direction, from

the negative to the positive charge, on both sides of the

dipole. For small a´r the magnitude of the ®eld is

proportional to (1´r)

3

: it falls off faster with distance

than the ®eld due to a point charge, because to second

order in (a´r) the contributions of the positive and

negative charges cancel out.

15.15 The three charges at BDE and the three at CFH

are symmetrically placed with respect to the diagonal GA

in Fig 15.45. By symmetry the force on the charge at A is

therefore outwards in the direction GA from the

opposite corner. The component of the force due to

the charge at B along GA is

q

2

4pc

0

a

2

×

1

3

,

the component due to the charge at C is

q

2

4pc

0

(

2

a)

2

×

2

3

,

and the force due to the charge at G is

q

2

4pc

0

(

3

a)

2

.

The total force is therefore

q

2

4pc

0

a

2

3

3

÷

3

2

×

2

3

÷

1

3

= 2.14

q

2

4pc

0

a

2

.

15.16 For a charge at the centre of the cube the ¯ux

of the electric ®eld out of one face is q´6c

0

. For a

charge at one corner the ¯ux out of an opposite face is

q´24c

0

.

15.18 The electrostatic energy is calculated by building

up the charge on the nucleus from the centre, assembling

thin spherical shells one by one like the successive layers

of an onion. As in Problem 15.11, at a distance r from

the centre of the nucleus, less than its radius R, the

charge within r is

4

3

pjr

3

. The potential at r is

1

4pc

0

r

×

4

3

pjr

3

.

The energy needed to bring from in®nity an extra thin

shell of radius dr, carrying a charge 4pjr

2

dr is

1

4pc

0

r

×

4

3

pjr

3

×4pjr

2

dr =

4

3

pj

2

r

4

dr

c

0

,

and the electrostatic potential energy of the whole

nucleus is

R

0

4

3

pj

2

r

4

dr

c

0

=

4pj

2

R

5

15c

0

=

3

5

×

Q

2

4pc

0

R

where Q =

4

3

pjR

3

is the total charge of the nucleus. For

lead, Q = 82e, giving a total electrostatic energy of

1.24 ×10

÷10

J or, equivalently, 775 MeV.

15.19 The two dipoles attract one another, and their

potential energy at a distance of 0.4 nm is ÷0.126 eV.

15.21 The number of electrons is about 1300. Capaci-

tors of about this size are used to store digits in dynamic

random access memories (DRAMs).

15.24 When no dielectric is present, the electric ®eld E

inside the capacitor is E = V´d, where V is the voltage

difference between the plates and d their separation. If

their area is S, the charge Q on the plates is c

0

ES and the

capacitance C = Q´V = c

0

S´d.

When the space between the plates is half-®lled

with an insulator, the ®eld inside the insulator is smaller

than the ®eld outside by a factor equal to the relative

permittivity c. Call the electric ®eld at the surface of the

plates E

/

. The ®eld inside the insulator is E

/

´c and

the voltage between the plates is V = E

/

d´2 ÷E

/

d´2c.

The charge on the plates is now Q = c

0

E

/

and the

capacitance is

C

/

=

2c

0

S

d ÷d´c

=

2cc

0

S

d(1 ÷c)

.

Fig. 15.45

582 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

The ratio of capacitances with and without insulator is

C

/

C

=

2c

1 ÷c

.

For C = 10 pF and c = 7, the capacitance is increased to

17.5 pF.

15.25 The electric ®eld at a point P on the axis is

E =

q

4pc

0

÷

1

(r ÷a)

2

÷

2

r

2

÷

1

(r ÷a)

2

¸

=

q

4pc

0

r

2

÷ 1÷

a

r

2

÷2

÷2 ÷ 1 ÷

a

r

2

÷2

¸

.

Making a binomial expansion in powers of a´r,

E =

q

4pc

0

r

2

÷1 ÷

2a

r

÷

(÷2) ×(÷3)

1 ×2

a

r

2

÷

÷2 ÷1 ÷

2a

r

÷3

a

r

2

÷

=

6qa

2

4pc

0

r

4

to second order in (a´r). For small (a´r) the ®eld from

the charges falls off with distance as 1´r

4

, more rapidly

than the ®eld of the dipole in Problem 15.14. The

charges in this problem may be regarded as two dipoles

close together, arranged so that their contributions

almost cancel each other at large distances. Such an

arrangement of charges is called an electric quadrupole.

15.27 The potential energy of one charge due to all the

others is ÷e

2

ln2´(2pc

0

d). For d = 0.1 nm this is

÷20.0 eV.

15.29 The potential due to the real charges ÷i per unit

length and the imagined `image' charges ÷i per unit

length is zero everywhere on the plane midway between

them. The potential on the conducting plate is zero, and

the induced charge must be distributed on this plate in

such a way that the ®eld above the plate is the same as

the ®eld due to the charges ±i per unit length. Inside the

conductor the electric ®eld is actually zero, and the

induced charges indeed move to the surface of the plane

to ensure that this is so, as illustrated in Fig 15.46.

The electric ®eld at the surface of a conductor is

always normal to the surface. To calculate the ®eld

due to the line charge and the image charge we only

need to consider the component normal to the

surface. At a distance y from the line joining ±i, the

normal component is

E

l

=

2i

2pc

0

(y

2

÷d

2

)

×

d

y

2

÷d

2

=

id

pc

0

(y

2

÷d

2

)

.

The surface charge density o is related to the ®eld by

E

l

= o´c

0

(eqn (15.39)), and the surface charge density

on the conductor at a distance y from the line joining

the real and image charges is

o =

id

p(y

2

÷d

2

)

.

15.30 Let the potential at the plane occupied by the

positive charge density be c. This plane is at a distance x

from one of the conductors; choose the origin of x to be

at this plane. The electric ®eld between 0 and x is ÷c´x,

and the induced charge density on the conductor at

x = 0 is ÷c

0

c´x. Similarly, the induced charge density

on the conductor at x = d is ÷c

0

c´(d ÷x). The total

induced charge density must be ÷o since there is no

electric ®eld outside the conductors. Hence

c

0

c

x

÷

c

0

c

d ÷x

= ÷o and c

0

c = o

x(x ÷d)

2x ÷d

.

Hence the charge density on the conductor at x = 0 is

÷o(x ÷d)´(2x ÷d) and the charge density on the

conductor at x = d is ÷ox´(2x ÷d).

Fig. 15.46

ANSWERS 583

For a single charge or any number of charges at a

distance x from one of the conductors, the division of

the induced charge between the two conductors is the

same as it is for a sheet of charge. X-rays and ·-rays

cause the formation of electrons and ions when they

interact with matter. Many X-ray and ·-ray detectors

work by collecting such electrons and ions by placing

them in an electric ®eld. The electrons and ions move in

opposite directions towards conducting plates. Induced

charges appear on these conductors before the ions and

electrons arrive, allowing the time of generating the ions

and electrons to be determined accurately.

584 15: ELECTROSTATI CS

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