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ForcesandEnergyfunctionsfordielectricsystems

Prof.R.S.Sorbello,UWM
March,2008
Consideradielectricslabpartlyinsideandpartlyoutsideaparallelplatecapacitor
asshown,forexample,inFig.4.30onpage194ofGriffiths.Thecapacitorplateshave
lengthl,widthw,andareseparatedbyadistanced.Theslabhasthicknessdandthe
coordinateofthelefthandedgeoftheslabisx.(Ifx=0,theslabwouldbeoccupyingthe
entirespacebetweentheplates.)
Theenergystoredintheelectricfieldis
W = 12 (r) E (r)2 d ,

(1)

where (r) isthepermittivityatpositionrand E(r) istheelectricfieldatpositionr.


Thevolumeintegralisoverallspace,andthisreducestothespacebetweentheplatesif
weignoretheenergyassociatedwiththefringingfieldsneartheedgeofthecapacitorand
beyond.ThismeansthatthevolumeintegralinEq.(1)istakenonlyoverthespace
betweentheplates,andinthisregion, (r) = inthesubregionthatisoccupiedbythe
dielectricand (r) = 0 inthesubregionbetweentheplateswherethereisnodielectric.
Therefore,
W =

vacuum

1
2 0

1
2 0

E 2 d +

dielectric

E xwd +

1
2
2 E (l

1
2
2 E d

(2)

x)wd

wherewehaveusedthefactthatEisuniformthroughouttheregionbetweentheplates,
andhenceisthesameinboththevacuumanddielectricregionsinsidethecapacitor.
LetFbethemechanicalforcethatyouneedtosupplyinthexdirectiontohold
thedielectricslabinplace.Sinceinaninfinitesimaldisplacementdx,youdoworkFdx
andthisgoesintoincreasingtheenergystoredintheelectricfield,theforcethatyou
exertisgivenby
F=

dW
.
dx

(3)

ItwillturnoutthatFispositive,meaningthatthedielectricissuckedintotheregion
betweentheplatesbytheactionofelectricfield(orCoulombforces)inthesystem.
(RecallthatyouhavetoexertamechanicalforceFthatisequalandoppositetotheforce
duetotheelectricfield.Alsonote:GriffithsusesFtodenotetheforcethatyouexert
onthedielectricratherthan+Fasweusehere.)

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Nowcomesthesubtlepart:WhenwetakethederivativeontheRHSofEq.(3),
whatistobetreatedasaconstant?CanwetreatEasaconstant,whichwouldseemto
implythatabatteryissomehowinvolvedinkeepingthevoltageVfixed?Orshouldwe
treatthefreecharge+QandQontheplatesasconstant,whichimpliesthatthesystem
iselectricallyisolated,meaningthatnoadditionalfreechargecanflowontoeitherplate?
TheansweristhatwemusttreatQasfixedandnotEasfixed.Thisistrueevenifa
batteryisconnectedtothecapacitor,inwhichcaseVandEarebothkeptfixedasyou
movethedielectricbyanamountdx!Howcanthisbe?
Thekeypointisthatitisonlyforanisolatedsystem(fixedQ)thatyoucansay
thatwhenyoumovethedielectricbydx,thechangeinthestoredelectricalenergydW
comesentirelyfromthemechanicalworkFdxthatyoudo.ThusEq.(3)iscorrectonly
forsuchafixedQprocess.Tobemoreprecise,wemustthereforewritethederivative
ontheRHSofEq.(3)asaderivativeinwhichtheconditiontobeobeyedisthatQisheld
constant.Inthelanguageofpartialderivatives,thisis

F
.

(4)

Ontheotherhand,ifyousaythatthereisanattachedbatterythatkeepsthe
voltage(andthereforeEfield)constantasyoumovethedielectricbydx,thenthechange
inthestoredelectricalenergydWcomespartlyfromthemechanicalworkFdxthatyou
doandpartlyfromadditionalelectricalwork dWbattery donebythebattery.Butthelatter
isgivenby dWbattery = VdQ ,wheredQistheextrachargethatgoesfromthebatteryinto
thecapacitortomaintainthecapacitoratafixedvoltageduringthedisplacementdx.
Therefore,
dW = Fdx + dWbattery
= Fdx + VdQ

(5)

Dividingbydxandrearrangingterms,wegetfromthelastequationtheresult

,whereinthiscaseweareholdingVfixedintakingthesederivatives.

Inthelanguageofpartialderivatives,thisresultis


F
.

(6)

WeemphasizethatEq.(4)andEq.(6)mustbothgiveexactlythesameresultfor
F!Thisfollowsfromthefactthattheelectricforceonthedielectricwhenitisatany
givenpositionx,dependsonlyonthechargedistributioninthesystem(bothfreeand
boundchargedensities).Sowhenthedielectricisatanypositionxandthefreecharge
ontheplatesisspecified,thenthereisauniqueforceonthedielectricwhetherornotthe

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capacitorisattachedtoabattery.Ofcourse,abatterywouldhavebeenneededto
originallychargeupthecapacitorsothatithasfreechargesQontheplates,butonce
thisisdone,thebatterycanbedisconnected.Theforceonthedielectricafterthebattery
isdisconnectedwillbethesameasitwaswiththebatteryconnectedprovidedthatthe
positionxisheldfixed.
NowtoactuallycalculateF,wecanuseEq.(4),withWgivenbyEq.(2).Butin
usingEq.(2),wemustbecarefultowriteEintermsofQsothatwecanperformthe
indicatedderivativeatconstantQ.Alternatively,wecanuseEq.(6),inwhichcasethe
expressionforWinEq.(2)iseasytousebecauseVbeingheldconstantasthecondition
onthederivativesinEq.(6),meansthatEistobeheldconstantwhentakingthe
derivatives.However,thereistheextraterm V ( thatneedstobeevaluatedon
theRHSofEq.(6),sowewouldhavetoexpressQasafunctionofVandxsothatwe
couldevaluatethatpartialderivative.Thismeansthatwehavetocalculatethe
capacitanceofthestructuresinceQ=C(x)V.Butifwearegoingtoevaluatethe
capacitance,thereisabetterwaytoproceed,aswenowdescribe.
TodetermineFintermsofthecapacitanceofthesystem,wenotethatWisthe
electricalenergystoredinacapacitor,whichcanbeexpressedintermsofthecapacitance
Cofthestructureineitherofthetwoequivalentways:
W =

or

Q2

2C

W =

CV 2
.
2

(7a)

(7b)

AsdiscussedinGriffiths,Wcontainscontributionsfromthedistortionof"molecular
springs"inadditiontothepureCoulombpotentialenergyofthefreeandinducedcharges
inthesystem.(Thisfactisirrelevantforthesubsequentanalysis.)
IfweuseEq.(7a)intoEq.(4),weget

F
.

(8)

SinceCisafunctiononlyofx,thisgives
F=

Q2 d 1
Q 2 dC
( ) = 2
.
2 dx C
2C dx

UponusingQ=CVinthelastequality,wefinallyget

(9)

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V 2 dC
F = .
2 dx

(10)

WeremarkthatC(x)canbereadilydeterminedbyequatingtheexpressionsforWgiven
byEqs.(2)and(7b)andmakingthesubstitutionE=V/dinEq.(2).
Nowlet'sseeifwegettheresultgivenbyEq.(10)byapplyingEq.(6)ratherthan
Eq.(4).SubstitutingEq.(7b)intoEq.(6),wefind


F
,

(11)

V 2 dC
F = .
2 dx

(12)

whichgives

ComparingEqs(10)and(12),weseethatwedogetthesameresultforF
whetherweuseEq.(4)orEq.(6).InthecaseofEq.(4)weimaginedthecapacitorplates
tobeisolated;inthecaseofEq.(6)weimaginedthecapacitorplatestobehookedupto
abattery.Ofcourse,inanyspecificprocessbetweeninitialandfinalvaluesofVandQ,
thevaluesofVandQatanystepintheprocesswilldependonthedetailsofthepathin
the"QVspace"thattheprocessfollows.Soforexample,Vwillbeconstantinaprocess
whereabatteryisattached,andQwillbeaconstantinaprocesstheplatesareisolated
(nobatteryattached).ThismeansthatWmechwilldependonthespecificpathofthe
processbetweeninitialvaluesofQ,VandfinalvaluesofQ,V.(Inmathlanguage,this
meansthat dWmech isan"imperfectdifferential,"andthenotation dWmech isoftenusedto
signifythatproperty.)
Thereisaninterestingthingtonoticehere.IfyouweretouseEq.(3)and
substitutedexpression(7b)forWinEq.(3),youwouldget
F=

dW
d CV 2
=

.
dx
dx
2

(13)

Sofarthisiscorrect,butitmustbeunderstoodthatinthederivative,onemustkeepQ
constant,aspointedoutinthediscussionleadingtoEq.(4),whichistheexact,explicit
formofEq.(3).NowifyoumadethemistakeoftakingthederivativeontheRHSofEq.
(13)bykeepingVfixedinsteadofkeepingQfixed,youwouldget

F

(14)

ThislastexpressioniswrongbecauseitwasobtainedbyincorrectlykeepingVconstant
ratherthanQconstantintakingthederivative.However,comparingthewrongresult

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(14)withthecorrectresult(10)or(12),wenoticethatthewrongmethodturnsouttogive
thecorrectmagnitudefortheforcebutthewrongsign!SinceCwilldecreaseasx
increases,thequantitydC/dxisnegative.Sothewrongresultwouldpredictthatthe
forceyouwouldapplytokeepthedielectricinplaceisnegative,implyingthatifyou
weretoletgoofthedielectric,thedielectricwouldbeejectedfromthecapacitor,asif
firedfromagun!Thecorrectresultisthatthedielectricissuckedintotheregion
betweentheplatesratherthanrepelledfromit.
Acaveat:ItistemptingtosaythatonecanalwaysgetthecorrectmagnitudeofF
bymakingthesimple,thougherroneous,analysisleadingfromEq.(13)toEq.(14),so
whybotheraboutallthedetailsinthecorrectanalysisjusttogetthecorrectsign?After
all,wecanalwaysfudgeourfinalresultbytackingontherightsignattheend.Itisjust
anaccidentthatanincorrectanalysisturnsouttogivethecorrectmagnitudeoftheforce,
sodon'texpecttogetcreditforsuchananalysis.Furthermore,besidesthefactthatEq.
(14)iswrongbecausethemethodleadinguptoitiswrong,therearecaseswhereEq.(14)
alsogivesthewrongmagnitudeforF.Thishappensifwearedealingwithacertain
classofdielectricmedia,knownasnonlineardielectrics.Althoughwenormallydon't
encountersuchexoticmediainanundergraduatecourse,suchmediadoexistanddohave
technologicalapplications.Anonlineardielectricmediumischaracterizedbya
permittivitythatdependsuponthestrengthoftheelectricfield.Thisleadstoa
capacitancethatdependsonvoltage,which,ofcourse,isneverthecaseforsimple
dielectricmedia.Foranymedium,exoticornot,Eqs(4)and(6)remainvalid,sincetheir
derivationwasbasedontheworkenergyprincipleandrequiresnoexplicitassumption
aboutthedielectricmedium.Ontheotherhand,assumingthatC=C(x)independentofV
orQistrueonlyforlineardielectrics(andvacuum).Infact,thefinalexpressions(10)or
(12)forFwouldhavetobemodifiedfornonlinearmedia,anditturnsoutthatthewrong
resultgiveninEq.(14)isnolongerjustinerrorbyaminussign.(Incidentally,at
sufficientlyhighelectricfields,alldielectricmediabecomenonlinear,soitisnotreally
accuratetorefertononlinearmediaas"exotic".)

OptionalMaterial:
ConnectionwiththermodynamicfunctionsandLegendreTransformations:
Eq.(6)canbewritteninthefollowingform:

F
,

(15)

W = W QV .

(16)

where

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Thefunction W isknownastheLegendretransformofW.Takingthedifferentialof
Eq.(16),weget
d .

(17)

UsingdWfromEq.(5),wefindthatEq.(17)gives
d

(18)

NotethatEq.(15)followsdirectlyEq.(18)byusingthedefinitionofpartial
derivatives.ThesetofequationsEq.(5),(16),(18),andtheassociatedexpressionsEq.(4)
and(15)havethesamestructureastheequationsforthermodynamicpotentials.Recall,
forexample,thattheinternalenergyfunctionU=U(S,V)satisfiesthelawof
thermodynamicsgivenby
(19)
dU .
TheLegendretransformationtoanewfunctionA,calledthe"Helmholtzfree
energy,"isdefinedby
(20)
A ,
fromwhichitfollowsthat

dA .

(21)

(22)


P .

(23)

FromEq(19)weget

andfromEq.(21)weget

Eqs(19)(23)areanalogoustoEq.(5),(16),(18),andtheassociatedexpressionsEq.(4)
and(15).(NotetheminussignsontheRHSofEqs(19),(22),and(23)occurbecause
thedefinitionofpressurePinthermodynamicsisthatitistheforceperunitareaexerted
bythegasonthewallsofthesystem,asopposedtotheforceperunitareaexertedbythe
wallsonthegas,whichwoulddifferbyaminussignsincetheforcesareequaland
opposite.)
InterpretationofLegendreTransformationasincludingtheexternalsourceofenergy:
TheLegendretransformationgivenbyEq.(16)canbeinterpretedasfollows:For
allintentsandpurposes, W actsasthetotalenergyforasystemthatincludesthebattery
aspartofthesystem.Thiscontrastswiththeoriginalviewthatthesystemconsistsofthe
dielectricandchargedcapacitorplates,andthatthesystemcanexchangeenergywiththe

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externalworldbymeansofabatteryandtheexternalmechanicalforceF.Thenew
interpretationfollowsbynotingthattheworkdonebythebatteryequalsVdQ,andthat
forabatteryoffixedvoltageV,thisequalsd(QV).ItthenfollowsfromEq.(16)that
d

(24)

Eq.(24)statesthatforpurposesofkeepingtrackofenergychanges, W actslikethe
energyoftheoriginalsystemminustheworkdonebythebattery.Thisiswhatistobe
expectedifweimaginethebatterytobealargereservoirofchargeatfixedvoltageVand
weincorporatethatlargereservoirofchargeaspartofthesystem.Thenthechangein
thetotalenergyofthisnewsystemisthesumofthechangeofWfromthedielectricpart
andasecondcontributionequaltothenegativeoftheenergychangeofthebatteryor
chargereservoir.(Thechangeinenergyofthechargereservoirsubsystemis dWbattery
whenthebatterydoeswork dWbattery onthedielectricsubsystem.)Thesameideaholds
forthethermodynamicanalogyEq.(23),wherewecaninterpretAasbeingtheenergyfor
alargersystemthatincludesthethermalreservoirsattemperatureT.
AsubtlepointisthatthesecondlineofEq.(24)isvalidonlyforprocessesat
constantV,yetweuse W foranykindofprocessorpathintheQVplane.Tomake
senseoftheinterpretationofincorporatingthebatteryintothenewsystemforprocesses
inwhichVundergoesachange,oneneedstoimagineaverylarge(actually,infinite)set
ofbatteries,eachdifferingfromthepreviousonebyaninfinitesimalamountdV.Then
weconnectanddisconnectthesebatteriestooursystemateachstepinthepathwhereour
processrequiresachangeinV.(Notethatineachinfinitesimalstepintheprocesswhere
thebatteryvoltagegoesfromVtoV+dVandthechargegoesfromQtodQ,thework
donebythebatteryineachstepisVdQ.Therefore,nothinggetslostinthedVjumpthat
accompaniestheswitchtoanewbatteryorchargereservoir.)Inthissense,thestatement
that W actsasthetotalenergyforasystemthatincludesthebatteryaspartofthe
systemhastobegeneralizedtoincludethewholesetofbatteriesorchargereservoirs.
Again,asimilarthingistobeimaginedforthethermodynamicanalogyEq.(23),where
thenewsystemincludesaninfinitesetofthermalreservoirsatdifferenttemperaturesT.