ELECTRIC POTENTIAL
Electric potential and potential energy are defined only for conservative fields.
(A force is said to be conservative, if work done by the force between two points is independent of the path
followed between two points.
All the forces, which obey inverse square law, are conservative in nature. Therefore, gravitational and
electrostatic forces are conservative in nature.)
Definition in terms of work done:
Potential at any point A is equal to the amount of work done (by external agent against electric field) in bringing a
unit positive charge from infinity to that point.
q
W
V
A
A
∞
·
 (1)
• Unit of potential (V) = J/C or volt
• Potential at a point is said to be one volt if the amount of work done in bringing one coulomb of positive
charge from infinity to that point is one joule.
• Since work and charge, both are scalars, the electric potential is a scalar quantity.
Definition in terms of line integral:
Consider a point charge +q located at point O in space. Let AB be any path between the points A and B in the
electric field of the charge +q, such that OA=rA and OB=rB.
let P be any point in the path AB such that OP=r. let l d Q P
· be infinitesimally small displacement along path
AB.
Work done in moving unit positive charge from P to Q =
l d E
.
[using
S F W
. ·
]
The total work done in moving the unit positive charge from A to B
is given by
∫
• ·
B
A
l d E W
The electric field at P due to point charge +q located at O is given by
r
r
q
E ˆ
2
0
4
1
⋅ ·
πε
, where
rˆ is the unit vector along OP.
If θ is the angle between
E
and
l d
, then
l d E
.
=
r
r
q
ˆ
2
0
4
1
⋅
πε
l d
•
=
θ
πε
cos . 1
2
0
4
1
dl
r
q
⋅
l d E
.
=
θ
πε
cos
2
0
4
1
dl
r
q
⋅
 (2)
From Q drop QN perpendicular to OP. Then, from right angled triangle PNQ,
PN= PQ cosθ = dl cosθ
PN is in the direction of increasing r, PN = + dr
Therefore, dl cosθ = dr  (3)
Using eqn (3) in eqn (2), we get
l d E
.
=
dr
r
q
2
0
4
1
⋅
πε
Hence, dr r q dr
r
q
l d E
B
A
B
A
B
A
∫ ∫ ∫
−
· · •
2
0
2
0
4
1
4
1
π ε π ε


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 1 of 15
Prepared by: Sandhya.K
Class XII/PHYSICS
· •
∫
B
A
l d E
B
r
A
r
r
q
]
]
]
]
−
−
1
1
0
4
1
πε
= ]
]
]
−
A B
r r
q
1 1
0
4
1
πε
Therefore, · •
∫
B
A
l d E
]
]
]
−
A B
r r
q
1 1
0
4
1
πε
 (4)
The equation gives the value of line integral of the electric filed between two points A and B along the path AB.
It follows that the expression depends only on the distances of the end points A and B (i.e. rA and rB) and not on
the path followed.
The line integral of the electric field between two points is same for all the paths between
the two points i.e. it is independent of the path followed between the two points.
• The line integral of the electric field along a closed path is zero.
POTENTIAL DIFFERENCE
Potential difference between two points in an electric field is defined as the amount of work done (by external
agent) in moving a unit positive charge from point to the other with in the electric field.
If Wif is the small amount of work done in moving a small positive test charge q0 from A to B, then
0
q
W
V V
AB
A B
· −
 (1)
• Potential difference is a scalar quantity.
• Potential difference may be positive or negative.
Consider a charge +q placed at O. Let the test charge
be at point P. If
E
is the electric field at P due to
+q at O, then force on the test charge q0 due to the
electric field of the source charge = E q
0
Suppose the test charge is moved from P to Q through
an infinitesimally small distance
l d
, then the small
work done is given by,
Edl q Edl q l d E q l d F dW
0 0 0
180 cos ) ( . · ° − · ⋅ − · ·
As the charge is moved from A to B, the work done is
dr
r
qq
B
r
A
r
AB
W
Edr
B
r
A
r
q
B
A
dW
AB
W
2
0
0
4
1
0
πε
∫
− ·
∫
− ·
∫
·
dr
B
r
A
r
r qq
AB
W
∫
−
− ·
2
0
0
4
1
πε
B
r
A
r
r
qq
AB
W
]
]
]
]
−
−
− ·
1
1
0
0
4
1
πε
]
]
]
− ·
]
]
]
·
A B
r r
qq
A
r
B
r
r
qq
AB
W
1 1
0
0
4
1 1
0
0
4
1
πε πε
 (2)
From equations (1) and (2), we get,


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 2 of 15
Prepared by: Sandhya.K
dl
Class XII/PHYSICS
]
]
]
− ·
]
]
]
−
· · −
A B
A B
AB
B A
r r
q
q
r r
qq
q
W
V V
1 1
0
4
1
0
1 1
0
0
4
1
0
πε
πε
]
]
]
− · −
A B
B A
r r
q V V
1 1
0
4
1
πε
 (3)
ELECTRIC POTENTAIL DUE TO A POINT CHARGE
Electric potential at a point in an electric field is defined as
the amount of work done in bringing a unit positive charge
from infinity to that point against the electrostatic force
due to electric field.
Consider a point charge +q placed at O. Suppose VA is the
Electric potential at A, whose distance from O is rA.
If W∞A is the work done in moving a infinitesimally
Small positive test charge q0 from infinity to the point A,
then,
0
q
W
V
A
A
∞
·
 (4)
Suppose at any instant the test charge is at P. The force experienced by the test charge in the field of the point
charge q is E q
0
. Let the test charge be moved through a small distance dl against this force. The small amount
of work done is given by
Edl q Edl q l d E q l d F dW
0 0 0
180 cos ) ( . · ° − · ⋅ − · ·
Here, r decreases in the direction of dl, therefore dl= dr
Hence we have, Edr q dW
0
− ·  (5)
Now,
2
0
4
1
r
q
E
πε
·
Using this equation (5) becomes,
dr q
r
q
dW
0
2
0
4
1
πε
− ·
The work done in moving the test charge from infinity to point A is given by
dr r qq dr
r
qq
dW W
A A
r r A
A
∫ ∫ ∫
∞
−
∞ ∞
∞
− · − · ·
2
0
0
0
4
1
2
0
4
1
πε πε
) 6 (
1
0
0
4
1
0
1
0
0
4
1 1 1
0
0
4
1
1
0
0
4
1
1
1
0
0
4
1
− − − − − − − − − − ·
∞
]
]
]
− ·
]
]
]
∞
− ·
∞
∞
]
]
]
·
∞
]
]
]
]
−
−
− ·
∞
A
A A
r
qq
A
W
r
qq
r
qq
A
W
A
r
r
qq
A
r
r
qq
A
W
πε
πε πε
πε πε
From equation (4) and (6), we get
0
q
W
V
A
A
∞
·
=
A
A
r
q
q
r
qq
.
0
4
1
0
1
0
0
4
1
πε
πε
·
If the point A is at a distance r from the charge +q, then the subscript A may be dropped, and we have


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 3 of 15
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Class XII/PHYSICS
r
q
V .
0
4
1
πε
·
 (7)
If the source charge is located at a point whose position vector is
r′
, then
r r
q
V
′ −
·
.
0
4
1
πε
 (8)
ELECTRIC POTENTAIL DUE TO A SYSTEM OF CHARGES
Consider a group of point charges q1, q2, q3… qn lying at a distance r1, r2, r3… rn from a point P.
The electrostatic potential at P due to these charges can be found by calculating the electrostatic potential at point
P due to each individual charge and adding them algebraically.
The electrostatic potential at P due to charge q1when other charges
are considered absent,
1
1
1
.
0
4
1
r
q
V
πε
·
The electrostatic potential at P due to charge q2when other charges
are considered absent,
2
2
2
.
0
4
1
r
q
V
πε
·
The electrostatic potential at P due to charge q3when other charges
are considered absent,
3
3
3
.
0
4
1
r
q
V
πε
·
The electrostatic potential at P due to charge qn when other charges
are considered absent,
n
n
r
q
V .
0
4
1
4
πε
·
Hence, the electrostatic potential at P due to a system of n point charges,
n
V V V V V .......
3 2 1
+ + + ·
) 9 (
0
4
1
...
0
4
1
.
0
4
1
.... .
0
4
1
.
0
4
1
.
0
4
1
1
3
3
2
2
1
1
3
3
2
2
1
1
− − − − − − − − − − − − ·
,
`
.

+ + + + ·
+ + + + ·
∑
·
n
i i
i
n
n
n
n
r
q
V
r
q
r
q
r
q
r
q
V
r
q
r
q
r
q
r
q
V
π ε
π ε
π ε π ε π ε π ε
Note: In case the electric charges q1, q2, q3… qn are located at points, whose position vectors are
n
r r r r
....... , ,
3 2 1
, then the electric potential at a location
r
can be found using the equation,
∑
·
−
·
n
i i
i
r r
q
V
1
0
4
1
πε
 (10)


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 4 of 15
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Class XII/PHYSICS
EQUIPOTENTIAL SURFACE
A surface which has same electrostatic potential at every point is called an equipotential surface.
• Since all the points of the equipotential surface are at the same potential, no work is done in moving a
test charge between any two points on the equipotential surface.
If
E
is the electric field at a point on the equipotential surface and a test charge q0 is moved through a
distance dl on the surface, then
0 cos
0 ,
0
0
·
· ⋅
· ⋅ ·
θ Edl
l d E or
l d E q dW
i.e.
E
is perpendicular to
l d
.
PROPERTIES OF EQUIPOTENTIAL SURFACE
a) No work done in moving a test charge over an equipotential surface.
b) The electric field is always at right angles to the equipotential surface.
c) The equipotential surface tells us the direction of the electric field.
d) No two equipotential surfaces can intersect each other.
ELECTRIC POTENTIAL AT A POINT ON THE AXIAL LINE OF AN ELECTRIC DIPOLE
Consider an electric dipole AB of length 2a having charge –q at point A and charge +q at point B. let O be the
centre of the dipole and P be any point on its axial line, at a distance r from its centre, where electric potential
due to the dipole is to be determined. The potential at P due to charge –q,
PA
q
V .
0
4
1
1
πε
− ·
The potential at P due to charge +q,
PB
q
V .
0
4
1
2
πε
·
Therefore, net potential at point P due to the dipole,
V=V1+V2=
PA
q
.
0
4
1
πε
−
+
PB
q
.
0
4
1
πε
,
`
.

− ·
PA PB
q V
1 1
.
0
4
1
πε
 (1)
Now, PA = r + a and PB = r  a
Substituting for PA and PB in equation (1),
,
`
.

+
−
−
·
a r a r
q V
1 1
.
0
4
1
πε
2 2 2 2 2 2
2
.
0
4
1
.
0
4
1 ) (
.
0
4
1
a r
a
q
a r
a r a r
q
a r
a r a r
q V
−
·
,
`
.

−
+ − +
·
,
`
.

−
− − +
·
π ε π ε π ε


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 5 of 15
Prepared by: Sandhya.K
Class XII/PHYSICS
Since, q (2a) =p, the electric dipole moment of the electric dipole, the above equation becomes,
2 2
.
0
4
1
a r
p
V
−
·
πε
 (2)
When r>>a, then a
2
<<<<r
2
and can be neglected. Therefore,
2
.
0
4
1
r
p
axial
V
π ε
·
 (3)
ELECTRIC POTENTIAL AT A POINT ON THE EQUITORIAL LINE ELECTRIC DIPOLE
Consider an electric dipole AB of length 2a having charge –q at point A and charge +q at point B. let O be the
centre of the dipole and P be any point on its equitorial line, at a distance r such that PA=PB=r .
The potential at P due to charge –q,
r
q
PA
q
V .
0
4
1
.
0
4
1
1
πε πε
− · − ·
The potential at P due to charge +q,
r
q
PB
q
V .
0
4
1
.
0
4
1
2
πε πε
· ·
Therefore, net potential at point P due to the dipole,
V=V1+V2=
r
q
.
0
4
1
πε
−
+
r
q
.
0
4
1
πε
,
`
.

+ − ·
r r
q V
1 1
.
0
4
1
πε
=0 (4)
EQUIPOTENTIAL SURFACE
A surface which has same electrostatic potential at every point is called an equipotential surface.
• Since all the points of the equipotential surface are at the same potential, no work is done in moving a
test charge between any two points on the equipotential surface.
If
E
is the electric field at a point on the equipotential surface and a test charge q0 is moved through a
distance dl on the surface, then
0 cos
0 ,
0
0
·
· ⋅
· ⋅ ·
θ Edl
l d E or
l d E q dW
i.e.
E
is perpendicular to
l d
.
PROPERTIES OF EQUIPOTENTIAL SURFACE
e) No work done in moving a test charge over an equipotential surface.
f) The electric field is always at right angles to the equipotential surface.
g) The equipotential surface tells us the direction of the electric field.
h) No two equipotential surfaces can intersect each other.
ELECTROSTATIC POTENTIAL ENERGY OF A SYSTEM OF CHARGES.
The electrostatic potential energy of a system of charges is defined as the work done to bring the charges
constituting the system to their respective locations from infinity.
Electrostatic potential energy for a system of two point charges


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 6 of 15
Prepared by: Sandhya.K
Class XII/PHYSICS
Consider two point charges q1 and q2 lying at points A and B, whose locations are
1
r
and
2
r
respectively.
To form this system, two charges had to be brought from
infinity one after another. To bring the charge q1 no work is done
as no electrostatic force existed to oppose it.
Now, charge q2 is brought to its position B. when charge q2
is brought, the electric field due to q1at A opposes it. Hence,
work has to be done. The work done in moving charge q2 from
infinity to point B is given by
W=(electric potential at B due to charge q1 ) x q2
2
1
.
0
4
1
q
AB
q
W × ·
πε
Since,
2 1
r r AB
− · , we have
2 1
2 1
2
2 1
1
.
0
4
1
.
0
4
1
r r
q q
q
r r
q
W
−
· ×
−
·
πε πε
The work done in bringing the two charges to their respective position is stored as the potential energy of the
system. Hence, the electrostatic potential energy for a system of two point charges is given by
2 1
2 1
.
0
4
1
r r
q q
U
−
·
πε
 (5)
Electrostatic potential energy for a system of three point charges
Consider three point charges q1, q2 and q3 lying at locations are
1
r
,
2
r
and 3
r
respectively. To form this
system, two charges had to be brought from infinity one after another. To bring the charge q1 no work is done
as no electrostatic force existed to oppose it.
Now, charge q2 is brought to its position
2
r
. When charge q2 is brought, the electric field due to q1at A opposes
it. Hence, work has to be done. The work done in moving charge q2 from infinity to point B is given by
2 1
2 1
12
.
0
4
1
r r
q q
W
−
··
πε
Now, the charge q3 is brought from infinity to its location 3
r
. The work W13 has to be done to bring this charge in
the electric field of q1 and work, W23, has to be done to bring this charge q3 in the field of charge q2.
3 1
3 1
13
.
0
4
1
r r
q q
W
−
··
πε
3 2
3 2
23
.
0
4
1
r r
q q
W
−
··
πε
Now, the total work done to move the three charges from infinity to their respective locations will be stored as the
potential energy of the system and is given by
3 2
3 2
3 1
3 1
2 1
2 1
.
0
4
1
.
0
4
1
.
0
4
1
r r
q q
r r
q q
r r
q q
U
−
+
−
+
−
·
πε πε πε
,
`
.

−
+
−
+
−
·
3 2
3 2
3 1
3 1
2 1
2 1
.
0
4
1
r r
q q
r r
q q
r r
q q
U
πε


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 7 of 15
Prepared by: Sandhya.K
Class XII/PHYSICS
The above equation can be rewritten as
,
`
.

−
·
∑∑
· ·
.
0
4
1
2
1
3
1
3
1 i j
j i
j i
r r
q q
U
πε
 (6)
POTENTIAL ENERGY OF AN ELECTRIC DIPOLE, WHEN PLACED IN UNIFORM ELECTRIC FIELD
Consider an electric dipole consisting of charges –q and +q and of length 2a placed in a uniform electric field
E
,
making an angle θ with the direction of the field. Then the torque acting on the dipole is given by
τ = pE sinθ
If the dipole is rotated through an infinitesimally small angle dθ against the torque acting on it, then small work
done
θ θ θ τ d pE d dW sin · ·
Therefore, the work done in rotating the dipole from its orientation making an angle θ 1 with the direction of the
electric field, to θ 2 is given by
[ ]
[ ]
2 1
cos cos
cos sin sin
2
1
2
1
2
1
2
1
θ θ
θ θ θ θ θ
θ
θ
θ
θ
θ
θ
θ
θ
− ·
− · · · ·
∫ ∫ ∫
pE W
pE d pE d pE dW W
This work done will be stored as the potential energy of the dipole.
Hence, we have
[ ]
2 1
cos cos θ θ − · pE U
Let us assume that initially, the dipole was oriented perpendicular to the electric field (θ=90˚) and then brought
to an orientation making an angle θ with the direction of the electric field. Therefore, the expression for potential
energy becomes,
[ ] ( )
θ
θ θ
cos
cos 0 cos 90 cos
pE U
pE pE U
− ·
− · − ° ·
In vector notation,
E p U
• − ·
SHORT ANSWER QUESTIONS
1. If a point charge be rotated in a circle of radius r around a charge q, what will be the work done and why?
A. The potential at each point on the circular path around the charge is same, i.e potential difference
between the initial and final position is zero.
Therefore, work done, W= V x q = 0 x q = 0
2. How is the electric field at a point related to potential gradient?
A. Electric field at any point is equal to the negative of the potential gradient at that point.
dr
dV
E − ·
3. The electric potential is a constant in a region. What can you say about electric field there?
A. We know,
dr
dV
E − ·
Since, V is constant, electric field ( ) 0 tan · − · − · t cons
dr
d
dr
dV
E
4. If the electric field at a given point is zero, must the electric potential be also zero at that point?
A. No. Electric potential may be zero or constant at that point.


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 8 of 15
Prepared by: Sandhya.K
Class XII/PHYSICS
5. When is the potential energy of an electric dipole maximum, when placed in uniform electric field?
A. We have the relation for potential energy of an electric dipole as,
θ cos pE U − ·
When θ =180˚, cosθ = 1
Therefore,
pE pE pE U · − × − · − · 1 cos θ
, maximum potential energy.
Thus, the potential energy of an electric dipole is maximum when it is aligned antiparallel to the electric
field.
ELECTRIC FLUX
Generally, electric flux is the total number of lines of force passing through a surface.
Electric flux is defined as:
"The total number of lines of force passing through the unit area of a surface held perpendicularly."
Electric flux is a scalar quantity and is denoted by Φ.
MATHEMATICAL MEANING OF ELECTRIC FLUX
Mathematically the electric flux is defined as:
"The dot product of electric field intensity (E) and the vector area (Δs) is called electric flux."
Where θ is the angle between E and Δs
The electric flux through the entire surface is therefore, ∫
• · Φ
s
E
s d E
, where ∫
S
is the surface integral over
the entire surface.
MAXIMUM FLUX
If the surface is placed perpendicular to the electric field then maximum electric lines of force will pass through
the surface. Consequently maximum electric flux will pass through the surface.
ZERO FLUX
If the surface is placed parallel to the electric field then no electric lines of force will pass through the surface.
Consequently no electric flux will pass through the surface.


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 9 of 15
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Class XII/PHYSICS
UNIT OF FLUX
GAUSS’S LAW
Gauss's law provides a method to calculate any electric field.
Gauss’s law is a quantitative relation which applies to any closed hypothetical surface called Gaussian surface to
determine the total flux (Ø) through the surface and the net charge(q) enclosed by the surface.
STATEMENT
"The total electric flux, ΦE, through a closed surface enclosing a charge, q, is equal to
0
1
ε
times the total charge
enclosed by the surface."
That is,
0
ε
q
s d E
S
E
· • · Φ
∫
Here,
0
ε is the absolute permittivity of the free space.
Proof:
Consider that a point charge q is situated at the centre of a sphere of radius r. Let
E
be the electric field at any
point P on the surface of the sphere. Then, according to Coulomb’s law,
r
r
q
E ˆ
4
1
2
0
⋅ ·
π ε
, where
rˆ is the unit vector along OP.
Consider a small area element s d
(shaded in the diagram) around the
point P. The area vector s d
will be directed along OP, in the direction
of
rˆ . The electric flux through the area element s d
is given by
( )( )
1 . .
4
1
0 cos 1 .
4
1
ˆ .
4
1
2
0
2
0
2
0
ds
r
q
d
ds
r
q
s d r
r
q
s d E d
πε
φ
πε πε
φ
·
° · • · • ·
Therefore, the electric flux through the closed surface of the sphere,
∫ ∫ ∫
· · · Φ
s s s
ds
r
q
ds
r
q
d
2
0
2
0
.
4
1
.
4
1
πε πε
φ
Now,
2
4 r ds
s
π ·
∫ , closed surface area of a sphere.


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 10 of 15
Prepared by: Sandhya.K
Class XII/PHYSICS
Therefore,
0
2
2
0
4 . .
4
1
ε
π
π ε
q
r
r
q
· · Φ
.
It proves the Gauss’s theorem in electrostatics.
TO DEDUCE COULOMB’S LAW FROM GAUSS’S THEOREM
Consider two point charges q1 and q2, placed at points A and B at a distance r apart in vacuum. Let E be the
magnitude of electric field at the location of the charge q1due to q2. Then, the
force experienced by the point charge q2 due to the electric field of q1,
E q F
2
·  (1)
To find E, draw a Gaussian surface of radius r with A as centre.
According to Gauss’s theorem, the total electric flux through the spherical
Gaussian surface is given by,
0
1
ε
q
s d E
S
· •
∫
Since , S IId E
1 0 cos 0 · ° · and θ
∫ ∫
· •
S S
EdS S d E
Hence,
0
1
ε
q
EdS
S
·
∫
The magnitude of the electric field E is same at all points on the spherical surface i.e. E is constant. Therefore,
∫
·
S
dS E
q
0
1
ε
Now, ∫
·
S
r dS
2
4π
(surface area of the spherical Gaussian surface of radius r)
(2) .
4
1
4
2
1
0
2
0
1
− − − − − − − − ·
× · ∴
r
q
orE
r E
q
π ε
π
ε
From eqn.(1) and (2), we have
2
2 1
0
.
4
1
r
q q
E
π ε
·
It is the mathematical form of Coulomb’s law in electrostatics.
ELECTRIC FIELD DUE TO A LINE CHARGE
Consider a thin infinitely long straight line charge having linear charge density λ
placed along YY’. To find the electric field due to the line charge at point P distant
r from it, draw cylindrical surface of radius r and length l with line charge as its
axis. This cylindrical surface will be the Gaussian surface.
The electric lines of forces are parallel to the end faces of the cylinder, so
there are no field lines normal to the end faces. The electric flux crosses only the
curved surface of the cylinder. If E is the magnitude of the electric field at the point
P, then the electric field through the Gaussian surface is given by


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 11 of 15
Prepared by: Sandhya.K
Class XII/PHYSICS
l length and r radius of cylinder the of area surface curved × · Φ E
rl E π 2 × · Φ  (3)
According to Gauss’s theorem, we have
0
ε
q
· Φ
Now, the charge enclosed by the Gaussian surface,
l q λ ·
Therefore,
0
ε
λl
· Φ
 (4)
From eqn. (3) and eqn. (4), we get
r
l
rl
E
l
rl E
λ
πε ε
λ
π
ε
λ
π
.
2
1
2
1
2
0 0
0
· × ·
· ×
Therefore, the electric field due to a line charge is
r
E
λ
πε
.
2
1
0
·
ELECTRIC FIELD DUE TO A PLANE SHEET OF CHARGE
Consider an infinite thin plane sheet of positive charge having a uniform surface charge density σ on both sides of
the sheet.
To find the electric field due to the line charge at point P distant
r from it, draw cylindrical surface of area of crosssection A
through the point P as the Gaussian surface. The electric
lines of forces are parallel to the curved surface of the
cylinder, the flux due to the electric field of the plane sheet
of charge passes only through the two circular faces of
the cylinder. If E is the magnitude of the electric field
at the point P, then the electric field through the
Gaussian surface is given by
(5)          2A E or
cylinder the of faces end the of area
× · Φ
× · Φ E
According to Gauss’s theorem, we have
0
ε
q
· Φ
Now, the charge enclosed by the Gaussian surface,
A q σ ·
Therefore,
0
ε
σA
· Φ
 (6)
From eqn. (5) and (6), we have
0
2
ε
σA
A E · ×
0
2ε
σ
· E
Thus, the electric field at a point due to an infinitely thin plane sheet of charge is independent of its distance from
the sheet of charge.
ELECTRIC FIELD DUE TO A UNIFORMLY CHARGED SPHERICAL SHELL
Consider a spherical shell of radius R and centre O. let +q be the charge on the spherical shell.


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 12 of 15
Prepared by: Sandhya.K
Class XII/PHYSICS
a) When point P lies outside the spherical shell: Draw the Gaussian surface through the point P
which will be a sphere of radius r and centre O.
Let
E
be the electric field at point P due to charge q on the spherical shell. At every point on the surface of the
shell, the field has same magnitude and is along the normal to the surface. The flux through the Gaussian surface
is given by
2
4 . r E dS E EdS S d E
s s s
π · · · • · Φ
∫ ∫ ∫
The charge enclosed by the Gaussian surface is q. According to
Gauss theorem,
) 1 (
2
0 0
2
0
2
0
.
4
1
4
4 .
− − − · ·
·
· • · Φ
∫
r
q
r
q
E
q
r E
q
s d E
S
E
π ε ε π
ε
π
ε
If σ is the uniform surface charge density of the spherical
Shell, then
2
4 . R A q π σ σ · ·
Substituting for q in eqn. (1), we get
2
2
0
2
2
0
.
4
.
4
1
r
R
r
R
E
ε
σ π σ
π ε
· · (For r>R)
b) When point P lies on the surface of the spherical shell: The Gaussian surface through the point P will just
enclose the charged spherical shell. Therefore,
According to Gauss’s theorem,
2
0
0
2
.
4
1
4 .
R
q
E
q
R E
πε
ε
π
·
·
Since,
2
4 . R A q π σ σ · · , the above equation becomes
0
2
2
0
4
.
4
1
ε
σ π σ
π ε
· ·
R
R
E (For r=R)
c) When point P lies inside the spherical shell: In such a case, the Gaussian surface through the point P will
not enclose any charge and hence according to gauss’s
theorem,
0
0
4 .
0
2
· ·
ε
πr E
E = 0 (for r<R).
Thus, at a point inside the charged spherical shell, electric field is zero.
ELECTRIC FIELD DUE TO A SOLID SPHERE OF CHARGE
Consider a solid sphere of charge +q, radius R and centre O.
a) When point P lies outside the sphere of charge: Draw the Gaussian surface through the point P
which will be a sphere of radius r and centre O.
Let
E
be the electric field at point P due to charge q on the sphere. At every point on the surface of the sphere,
the field has same magnitude and is along the normal to the surface. The flux through the Gaussian surface is
given by


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 13 of 15
Prepared by: Sandhya.K
Class XII/PHYSICS
2
4 . r E dS E EdS S d E
s s s
π · · · • · Φ
∫ ∫ ∫
The charge enclosed by the Gaussian surface is q. According to
Gauss theorem,
R) r (For .
4
1
4
4 .
) 2 (
2
0 0
2
0
2
0
> − − − · ·
·
· • · Φ
∫
r
q
r
q
E
q
r E
q
s d E
S
E
π ε ε π
ε
π
ε
If ρ is the uniform volume charge density of the sphere of charge, then
3
3
4
. R V q π ρ ρ · ·
Substituting for q in eqn. (2), we get
2
3
0
2
3
0
.
3
3
4
.
4
1
r
R
r
R
E
ε
ρ
π ρ
π ε
· ·
(for r>R)
b) When point P lies on the surface of the sphere of charge: The Gaussian surface through the point P will
just enclose the charged sphere. Therefore,
According to Gauss’s theorem,
2
0
0
2
.
4
1
4 .
R
q
E
q
R E
πε
ε
π
·
·
Since,
3
3
4
. R V q π ρ ρ · · , the above equation becomes
R
R
R
E .
3
3
4
.
4
1
0
2
3
0
ε
ρ
π ρ
π ε
· ·
(For r=R)
c) When point P lies inside the sphere of charge: In such a case, the Gaussian surface is a spherical shell,
whose centre is O, radius is ras shown in figure. If q’ is the charge
enclosed by the Gaussian surface, then
2
0 0
2
0
2
.
4
1
4
'
4 .
r
q
r
q
E
q
r E
′
·
′
·
·
π ε ε π
ε
π
Now,
3
3
4
. r V q π ρ ρ · · ′ where,
3
3
4
R
q
π
ρ ·
Therefore,
3
3
3
3
3
3
4
.
3
4 3
4
R
r
q r
R
q
r q · · · ′ π
π
π ρ
Substituting for q’ in the expression for E, we get


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 14 of 15
Prepared by: Sandhya.K
Class XII/PHYSICS
2
3
3
0
2
0
.
4
1
.
4
1
r
R
r
q
r
q
E
π ε π ε
·
′
·
3
0
.
4
1
R
qr
E
πε
·


SRHSS/2010/ Electrostatics Page 15 of 15
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