Spring 2014 Page 1
CHAPTER 23
ELECTRIC FIELDS
TOPICS:
1. Properties of electric charges
2. Discovering electricity
3. Charging objects by induction
4. Coulomb’s Law
5. The electric field
6. Electric field of a continuous charge distribution
7. Electric field lines
8. Motion of charged particles in a uniform electric field
1. Properties of electric charges
The effects of electric charge have been known since at least 600 B.C. About that time
the Greek peoples noticed that amber –a solid translucent material formed from the
fossilized resin of extinct coniferous trees has a peculiar property: if a piece of amber is
rubbed with animal fur it attracts small, lightweight objects. Today we say that amber has
acquired a net electric charge or has become electrically charged or electrified. This
phenomenon is illustrated in the figure bellow.
Charging an amber rod:
An uncharged amber rod
(a) exerts no force on
scraps of paper. When the
rod is rubbed against a
piece of fur (b) it becomes
charged and then attracts
the paper (c).
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For some time it was thought that amber was unique in its ability to become charged.
Much later it was discovered that other materials can behave in this way as well.
2. Discovering electricity
Experiment 1 Experiment 2
Experiment 3 Experiment 4
If the rods haven’t been
rubbed no interaction occur
between them.
The strength of the force
depends on how vigorous the
objects have been rubbed and
on the distance between them
Plastic rod rubbed with wool
and glass rubbed with silk
attracts each other.
Plastic rods which have been
rubbed with wool repeal each
other.
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Experiment 5 Experiment 6
Conclusions
1) Frictional forces, such as rubbing, add something called charge to an object or
remove it from object. The process itself is called charging. More vigorous
rubbing produces a larger quantity of charge.
2) Electric charges  Can be positive or negative.
3) Two like charges repel each other and two opposite charge attract each other.
See the figure below.
The pieces of paper leap up
and stick to the charged rod.
The charged rod is attracted by
the neutral rod.
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4) The force between two charges is a longrange force. The strength of the force
increases as the quantity of charge increases and decreases as the distance
between the charges increases.
In contrast with charging by rubbing, charging an object can also be done by induction
which does not require a direct contact with the object inducing the charge.
3. The physical basis of electric charge
Electric charges  Can be positive or negative.
An object that contains an equal amount of positive and negative charge has zero net
charge.
Objects with zero net charge are considered electrically neutral.
Example of electrically neutral system is theatom.
Atoms and Electricity
• An atom consists of a very small and dense nucleus surrounded by much less
massive orbiting electrons.
• The nucleus is a composite structure consisting of protons, positively charged
particles, and neutral neutrons.
• The atom is held together by the attractive electric force between the positive
nucleus and the negative electrons.
• Electrons and protons have charges of opposite sign but exactly equal
magnitude.
• This atomiclevel unit of charge, called the fundamental unit of charge, is
represented by the symbol e.
• All electrons have exactly the same electric charge. The electric charge of the
electron, e, has the magnitude
= 1.602 ×10
−19
Atom
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SI unit for the electric charge of the electron is coulomb C.
The total electric charge of the isolated system is constant (Conservation of the electric
charge).
The number of protons (or electrons) in atom is called atomic number (Z).
If one or more electrons are removed the remaining positively charged structure is called
a positive ion.
A negative ion is an atom that has gained one or more electrons.
This gaining or losing of electrons is called ionization. In a typical solid e nuclei of the
atoms are fixed in position. The outer electrons are often weakly bound and easily
separated.
The total electric charge q is quantized and can be calculated as
=
where N is the number of the electrons and e is the fundamental unit of charge which is
the charge of electron (e) or proton (+e)
= 1.602 ×10
−19
Summarize
The electric charge has the following important properties:
• There are two types of charges, positive and negative
• Charges of opposite sign attract one another and charges of the same sign repel
one another
• Total charge in an isolated system is conserved
• Charge is quantized
Positive and negative ions
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Electric properties of materials
In terms of the ability of electrons to move through the material we can classify the
materials in:
• Conductors – are materials in which some of the electrons can move relatively
free through the material.
• Insulators – are materials in which all electrons are bound to atoms and cannot
move freely through the material..
• Semiconductorstheir electrical properties are intermediate between those of
insulators and those of conductors.
Metals are conductors
Nonmetals are insulators.
4. Coulomb’s Law
NOTE:
The forces exerted by two point charges on one another are always along the line
connecting the charges. If the charges have the same sign the forces are repulsive.
Charges of opposite sign experience attractive forces. In all cases the forces exerted on
the two charges form an actionreaction pair.
Coulomb’s Law
The magnitude F of the force that each of two point charges q
1
and q
2
a distance r
apart exerts on the other is directly proportional to the product of the charges q
1
q
2
and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them r
2
.
=
1
2
2
Forces between point charges
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k is a constant (called Columbian constant) which depend on the medium.
In vacuum the Columbian constant is
= 8.99 ×10
9
2
2
The constant k is written also as
=
1
4
0
Where ε
0
is known as the permittivity of free space and is given by
0
= 8.8542 × 10
−12
2
2
⁄
Check your understanding!
1) When two identical ions are separated by a distance of . ×
−
the
electrostatic force each exerts on the other is . ×
−
. How many
electrons are missing from each ion?
Picture the Problem: Two identical charged ions exert an electrostatic force on each
other.
Strategy: Solve Coulomb’s law to find the amount of charge on each ion, then divide
the charge by the magnitude of an electron’s charge in order to find the number of
electrons equivalent to that charge.
Solution: 1. Solve equation for q:
2 2
2
q Fr
F k q
k r
= ⇒ =
2. Divide the charge by e to find
N:
10 9
e 19 9 2 2
6.2 10 m 5.4 10 N
3.0 electrons
1.60 10 C 8.99 10 N m / C
q r F
N
e e k
− −
−
× ×
= = = =
× × ⋅
2) Two point charges the first with a charge of . ×
−
and the second
with a charge of – . ×
−
C are separated by 25.5 cm.
a. Find the magnitude of the electrostatic force experienced by the positive
charge
b. Is the magnitude of the force experienced by the negative charge greater
than, less than, or the same as that experienced by the positive charge?
Picture the Problem: Two charges of unequal magnitude exert an electrostatic force on
each other.
Strategy: Use Coulomb’s law to find the magnitude of the force between the two
charges.
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Solution: 1. (a) Apply
Coulomb’s law directly:
( )
( )( )
( )
6 6
1 2 9 2 2
2 2
3.13 10 C 4.47 10 C
8.99 10 N m / C 1
0.255m
q q
F k
r
− −
× ×
= = × ⋅ =
2. (b) The magnitude of the electrostatic force depends upon the product of the charges
of both particles, so the negative charge experiences a force magnitude that is the same as
that experienced by the positive charge.
3) What is the net electric force on charge A in the figure below?
Model: Charges A, B, and C are point charges.
Visualize: Charge A experiences an electric force
B on A
F
due to charge B and an
electric force
C on A
F
due to charge C. The force
B on A
F
is directed to the right and the force
C on A
F
is directed to the left.
Solve: Coulomb’s law yields:
( )( )( )
( )
9 2 2 9 9
5
B on A 2
2
9.0 10 N m/C 1.0 10 C 1.0 10 C
9.0 10 N
1.0 10 m
F
− −
−
−
× × ×
= = ×
×
( )( )( )
( )
9 2 2 9 9
5
C on A 2
2
9.0 10 N m/C 1.0 10 C 4.0 10 C
9.0 10 N
2.0 10 m
F
− −
−
−
× × ×
= = ×
×
The net force on A is
( ) ( )( )
5 5
on A B on A C on A
ˆ ˆ
9.0 10 N 9.0 10 N 0 N F F F i i
− −
= + = × + × − =
4) What is the force
��⃗
on the 10nC charge in the figure below? Give your answer
as a magnitude and an angle measured from the x axis?
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Model: The charges are point charges.
Visualize:
Solve: The electric force on charge q
1
is the vector sum of the forces
2 on 1
F
and
3 on 1
. F
We have
( )( )( )
( )
( )
1 2
2 on 1 2 2
9 2 2 9 9
2 2
2
3 3
2
, away from
9.0 10 N m/C 10 10 C 5.0 10 C
, away from
1.0 10 m
ˆ
4.5 10 N, away from 4.5 10 N
K q q
F q
r
q
q j
− −
−
− −
 
=

\ .
 
× × ×

=

×
\ .
= × = − ×
( )( )( )
( ) ( )
( ) ( )( )
1 2
3 on 1 3 2
9 2 2 9 9
3 2 2
2 2
3 3
3
, toward
9.0 10 N m/C 10 10 C 15 10 C
, toward
3.0 10 m 1.0 10 m
ˆ ˆ
1.35 10 N, toward 1.35 10 N cos sin
K q q
F q
r
q
q i j θ θ
− −
− −
− −
 
=

\ .
 
× × ×

=

× + ×
\ .
= × = × − +
From the geometry of the figure,
1
1.0 cm
tan 18.4
3.0 cm
θ
−
 
= = °

\ .
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This means cos θ =0.949 and sin θ =0.316. Therefore,
( )
3 3
3 on 1
ˆ ˆ
1.28 10 0.43 10 N F i j
− −
= − × + ×
( )
3 3
on 1 2 on 1 3 on 1
ˆ ˆ
1.28 10 4.07 10 N F F F i j
− −
⇒ = + = − × − ×
The magnitude and direction of the resultant force vector are
( ) ( )
( )
2 2
3 3 3
on 1
3
1
3
on 1
1.28 10 N 4.07 10 N 4.3 10 N
4.07 10 N
tan 3.180 tan 3.180 72.5 below the axis,
1.28 10 N
or points 252.5 counterclockwise from the +axis.
F
x
F x
φ φ
− − −
−
−
−
= − × + − × = ×
×
= = ⇒ = = ° −
×
°
5) What is the force F exerted on the 1nC charge in the center of the square due to
the four charges?
Model: The charges are point charges.
Solve: Placing the 1.0 nC charge at the origin and calling it q
1
, the q
2
charge is in the
first quadrant, the q
3
charge is in the fourth quadrant, the q
4
charge is in the third
quadrant, and the q
5
charge is in the second quadrant. The electric force on q
1
is the
vector sum of the forces
2 on 1
, F
3 on 1
, F
4 on 1
, F
and
5 on 1
. F
The magnitude of these four forces is the same because all four charges are equal and
equidistant from q
1
. So,
( )( )( )
( ) ( )
9 2 2 9 9
4
2 on 1 3 on 1 4 on 1 5 on 1 2 2
2 2
9.0 10 N m/C 2.0 10 C 1.0 10 C
3.6 10 N
0.50 10 m 0.50 10 m
F F F F
− −
−
− −
× × ×
= = = = = ×
× + ×
Thus,
on 1
F
=(3.6 × 10
−4
N, toward q
2
) =(3.6 × 10
−4
N, toward q
3
) =(3.6 × 10
−4
N,
toward q
4
) =(3.6 × 10
−4
N, toward q
5
).
Thus the net force exerted on +1nC charge is 0.
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6) Find the direction and the magnitude of the net electrostatic force exerted on
the point charge q
2
in the figure below. Let
= . and d=33 cm.
Picture the Problem: Four charges are situated at the corners
of a square as shown in the diagram at right.
Strategy: The force on charge q
2
is a vector sum of the forces
from the other three charges. Let q
2
be at the origin and q
3
be
on the positive xaxis. Use Coulomb’s law to find the vector
sum of the three forces, from which we can find the magnitude
and direction of the net electrostatic force on q
2
.
Solution: 1. Find
1
F
:
( )
1 2
1 2 2 2
2.0
2.0
ˆ ˆ
k q q kq q
kq
d d d
= − = − = − F y y
2. Find
3
F
:
( )( )
2
2 3
3 2 2 2
2.0 3.0
6.0
ˆ ˆ ˆ
k q q k q q
kq
d d d
= − = − = − F x x x
3. Find
4
F
:
( )
( )( )
( )
(
2
2 4
4 2 2 2
2.0 4.0 ˆ ˆ ˆ ˆ 2.0 2
2 2 2 2
2 2
k q q k q q
kq
d
d d
   
= − + = − + = −
 
\ . \ .
x y x y
F
4. Find the vector sum
of the three forces:
( ) ( )
( )( )
( )
( ) ( )
( ) ( )
2 2 2 2
net 2 2 2 2
2
2
2
9 2 2 6
2
net
2.0 2 6.0 2.0 2 2.0
ˆ ˆ
2.0
ˆ ˆ 2 3.0 2 1
2.0 8.99 10 N m / C 2.4 10 C
ˆ ˆ 2 3.0 2 1
0.33 m
ˆ ˆ 4.2 N 0.39 N
kq kq kq kq
d d d d
kq
d
−
   
= − − + −
 
 
\ . \ .
(
= − + + −
¸ ¸
× ⋅ ×
= − + + −
¸
= − +
F x y
x y
x y
F x y
5. Find the direction of
net
F
from the +x axis:
net, 1 1
net,
0.39 N
tan tan 5.4 180 174.6
4.1 N
y
x
F
F
θ
− −
= = = − ° + ° = °
−
6. Find the magnitude of
net
F
:
( ) ( )
2 2
net
4.2 N 0.39 N 4.2 N F = − + =
7) Two point charges lie on the x axis. A charge of +. is at the origin and a
charge of −. is at x=10cm.
a. At what position x would a third charge q
3
be in equilibrium?
b. Does your answer to part a) depend on whether q
3
is positive or
negative?
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Picture the Problem: Three charges are arranged along
the xaxis as indicated in the figure and exert
electrostatic forces on each other.
Strategy: Let the xaxis be along the line of the three
charges with the positive direction pointing to the right.
Let x represent the distance between q
1
and q
3
. Use
Coulomb’s law (equation 195) and the superposition of
forces to find the net electrostatic force (magnitude and
direction) on q
3
and set it equal to zero. Supposing q
3
to be a positive charge, the force
from q
1
will be repulsive and to the right, and the force from q
2
will be attractive and to
the left. Find the appropriate value of x by finding the roots of the resulting quadratic
expression.
Solution: 1. (a) Use Coulomb’s
law to set
2
0 = F
: ( )
set
1 3 2 3
3 13 23 2 2
ˆ ˆ 0
q q q q
k k
x
x D
= + = − =
−
F F F x x
2. Set the magnitudes of the two
terms equal to each other, divide
both sides by
3
kq and simplify by
dividing both sides by q and then
taking the square root:
( )
( )
1 2
2 2
2
2
1 2
2 1
2 1
10 cm
5.8 cm, 35
1 1 5.1 C 9.9 C
q q
x
x D
q x D q x
x D q q x
D
x
q q µ µ
=
−
− =
− = ±
= = =
± ±
3. (b) No, the answer to part (a) does not depend on whether
3
q is positive or negative. If
3
q were negative, it would be pulled to the left by
1
q and pushed to the right by
2
q , so the
forces would still balance at x =35 cm.
5. The electric field
An electric field exists in the region of space around a charged object (the source charge
q). When another charged object (the test charge q
0
) enters in this electric field an electric
force acting on it.
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If a test charge q
0
experiences a force
��⃗
at a given location, the electric field
��⃗
at
that location is
��⃗
=
��⃗
The SI unit is N/C.
The definition applies whether the force
⃗
is due to a single charge or to a distribution of
charges.
NOTE:
• The electric field is the force per charge at a given location. Therefore if we know
the electric field vector
��⃗
at a given point the force that a charge q
0
experiences at that point is
��⃗
=
��⃗
• The direction of the force depends on the sign of the charge.
o A positive charge experiences a force in the direction of
��⃗
o A negative charge experiences a force in the opposite direction of
��⃗
• The magnitude of the force acting on a charge q is = 
0

The electric field of a point charge configuration
The electric field at distance r from a point charge q is
��⃗
=
��⃗
=
0
4
0
2
̂
=
4
0
2
̂
��⃗
=
4
0
2
̂
Check your understanding!
1) What is the magnitude of the electric field produced by a charge of magnitude
. at a distance 1 m?
Use the definition of the electric field to determine its magnitude.
( )( )
( )
9 2 2 6
4
2 2
8.99 10 N m / C 7.50 10 C
6.74 10 N/C
1.00m
k q
E
r
−
× ⋅ ×
= = = ×
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2) Two point charges lie on the x axis. A charge of . is at the origin and a
charge of −. is at x=10 cm. What is the net electric field at
a. x = 4cm
b. x = +4cm
Two charges are placed on the xaxis as shown at right and
create an electric field in the space around them.
Strategy: Use def. to find the magnitude and direction of the
electric fields created by each of the two charges at the
specified locations, then find the vector sum of those fields to
find the net electric field. At x = −4.0 cm the field from
1
q will
point in the ˆ −x direction and the field from
2
q will point in the
ˆ +x direction.
Solution: a) Sum the
fields produced by the
two
charges at x = −4.0 cm:
( )
( )
( ) ( )
( )
1 2 1 2
2 2 2 2
1 2 1 2
6 6
9 2 2 7
2 2
ˆ ˆ ˆ
6.2 10 C 9.5 10 C
ˆ ˆ 8.99 10 N m / C 3.0 10 N/C
0.040m 0.140m
k q k q q q
k
r r r r
− −
 
= − + = − +

\ .
(
× ×
= × ⋅ − + = − × (
(
¸ ¸
E x x x
x x
b) Repeat for x =4.0 cm:
( )
( ) ( )
( )
1 2 1 2
2 2 2 2
1 2 1 2
6 6
9 2 2 7
2 2
ˆ ˆ ˆ
6.2 10 C 9.5 10 C
ˆ ˆ 8.99 10 N m / C 5.9 10 N/C
0.040m 0.060m
k q k q q q
k
r r r r
− −
 
= + = +

\ .
(
× ×
= × ⋅ + = × (
(
¸ ¸
E x x x
x x
3) Two point charges of equal magnitude are 7.5 cm apart. At the midpoint of the line
connecting them, their combined electric field has a magnitude of 45 N/C. Find the
magnitude of the charges.
Two point charges that are separated by a short distance create an electric field between
them.
Strategy: The charges must have opposite signs or their electric fields would cancel out
at the point midway between them. The field will point away from the positive charge
and toward the negative charge so that both vectors point in the same direction midway
between the two charges. Therefore, the magnitude of the field midway between them is
the sum of the magnitudes of the fields from each charge. Sum the fields and solve for
the charge magnitude q.
Solution: Sum the fields from
each charge and solve for q:
( ) ( )
( )
2 2 2
2
1 2
2 12
9 2 2
2
0.075m 45 N/C
3.5 10 C 3.5 pC
2 2 8.99 10 N m / C
kq kq kq
E
r r r
r E
q
k
−
= + =
×
= = = × =
× ⋅
x
−4.0 cm0 4.0 cm10.0 cm
1
q
2
q
E
E
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The electric field lines for positive (a) and negative (b) electric charges
6. The electric field lines for systems of charges
(a) The electric field lines for a dipole form closed loops that become more widely
spaced with the distance from the charges. At each point in space, the electric
field vector E is tangent to the field lines. (b) In a system with a net charge, some
field lines extend to infinity. If the charges have opposite signs, some field lines
start on one charge and terminate on the other charge. (c) All of the field lines in a
system with charges of the same sign extend to infinity.
Discussion problem 1
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The electric field lines surrounding three charges are shown in the figure. The center
charge is
= − . What are the signs of q
1
and q
3
? Find q
1
and q
3
.
Discussion problem 2
Make a quantitative sketch of the electric field lines produced by the four charges, +q, 
q, +q and –q arranged clockwise on the four corners of a square with sides of length d.
Electric field of a charged plate
Parallelplate capacitor
The electric field near a large
charged plate is uniform in
direction and magnitude
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The total electric field due to a group of point charges can be calculated at any point as
the vector sum of the electric field charges.
7. The electric field of a continuous charge distribution
1. Uniform distribution of the electric charge
a) The linear charge density of an object of length L and charge Q, is defined as
Linear charge density, which has units of C/m, is the amount of charge per meter of
length.
b) The surface charge density of a twodimensional distribution of charge across a
surface of area A is defined as
=
In the ideal case, the electric field is
uniform between the plates and
zero outside.
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Surface charge density, with units C/m
2
, is the amount of charge per square meter.
Plane of Charge
The electric field of an infinite plane of charge with surface charge density is:
=
2
0
For a positively charged plane, with η >0, the electric field points away from the plane
on both sides of the plane.
For a negatively charged plane, with η <0, the electric field points towards the plane on
both sides of the plane.
c) If a charge Q is uniformly distributed over the volume V, the volume charge
density is
=
2. Nonuniform distribution of the electric charge
For nonuniform distribution over a volume, surface or line the amount of charge dq in a
small volume, surface or length elements are
=
=
=
Discussion problem
A 10 cm thin glass rod is uniformly charged to 40 nC. A small glass bead charged to
+6nC is 4 cm from the center of the rod. What is the force on the bead?
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1) The electric field due to a charged rod
A rod of length l has a uniform positive charge per unit length and a total charge Q.
Calculate the electric field at a point P that is located along the long axis of the rod and
a distance a from one end.
The electric field dE due to the charge dq at point P is in the negative x direction and its
magnitude is
The total field at P due to all segments of the rod which are at the different distances from
P, is given by
where the limits on the integral are extended from one end of the rod ( = ) to the other
( = + ).
Thus the electric field is
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Question:
If the point P is moved far away from the rod, what will be the electric field at this
point?
2) The electric field of a uniform ring of charge
A ring of radius a carries a uniformly distributed positive total charge Q. Calculate the
electric field due to the ring at a point P lying a distance x from its center along the
central axis perpendicular to the plane of the ring.
The magnitude of the electric field at P due to the segment of charge dq is
The field has an x component
= cos along x axis and
⊥
perpendicular to the
x axis.
The resultant
⊥
= 0 (the field created by any charge element is canceled by the
perpendicular component created by an element on the opposite side of the ring.
The total field at P is given by
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3) The electric field of a uniformly charged disc
A disc of radius R has a uniform surface charge density . Calculate the electric field
at a point P that lies along the central perpendicular axis of the disk and a distance x
from the center of the disk.
The ring of radius r and width dr has a surface area 2. The charge dq on this ring is
equal to
= 2.
The electric field due to dq at point P is given by
The total electric field
GENERAL PHYSICS II PHY2049
Spring 2014 Page 22
8. Motion of charged particles in a uniform electric field
When a particle of charge q and mass m is placed in an electric field E, the electric force
exerted on the charge q is
⃗
=
�⃗
= ⃗
Thus the acceleration of the particle is
⃗ =
�⃗
NOTE:
• If the particle has a positive charge, its acceleration is in the direction of the
electric field.
• If the particle has a negative charge its acceleration is opposite to the direction of
the electric field.
Suppose an electron of charge –e is projected horizontally into the field created by two
metallic plates oppositively charged .
The acceleration of the electron is
⃗ = −
̂
The components of the velocity
=
=
=
= −
The position
=
=
1
2
2
= −
1
2
2