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Fields in Materials

Materials contain charged particles that respond to applied electric and magnetic fields. Materials are classified according to the nature of their response to the applied fields.

Classification of Materials
Conductors Semiconductors Dielectrics Magnetic materials

A conductor is a material in which electrons in the outermost shell of the electron migrate easily from atom to atom. Metallic materials are in general good conductors.

Conduction Current
In an otherwise empty universe, a constant electric field would cause an electron to move with constant acceleration.


eE a me
magnitude of electron charge

e = 1.602 10-19 C

Conduction Current (Contd)

In a conductor, electrons are constantly colliding with each other and with the fixed nuclei, and losing momentum. The net macroscopic effect is that the electrons move with a (constant) drift velocity vd which is proportional to the electric field.

v d e E
Electron mobility

Conductor in an Electrostatic Field

To have an electrostatic field, all charges must have reached their equilibrium positions (i.e., they are stationary). Under such static conditions, there must be zero electric field within the conductor. (Otherwise charges would continue to flow.)

Conductor in an Electrostatic Field (Contd)

If the electric field in which the conductor is immersed suddenly changes, charge flows temporarily until equilibrium is once again reached with the electric field inside the conductor becoming zero. In a metallic conductor, the establishment of equilibrium takes place in about 10-19 s - an extraordinarily short amount of time indeed.

Conductor in an Electrostatic Field (Contd)

There are two important consequences to the fact that the electrostatic field inside a metallic conductor is zero: The conductor is an equipotential body. The charge on a conductor must reside entirely on its surface. A corollary of the above is that the electric field just outside the conductor must be normal to its surface.

Conductor in an Electrostatic Field (Contd)


+ + + +

Macroscopic versus Microscopic Fields

In our study of electromagnetics, we use Maxwells equations which are written in terms of macroscopic quantities. The lower limit of the classical domain is about 10-8 m = 100 angstroms. For smaller dimensions, quantum mechanics is needed.

Boundary Conditions on the Electric Field at the Surface of a Metallic Conductor

Et 0 Dn an D qes


- - E=0
+ + +

Induced Charges on Conductors

The BCs given above imply that if a conductor is placed in an externally applied electric field, then
the field distribution is distorted so that the electric field lines are normal to the conductor surface a surface charge is induced on the conductor to support the electric field

Applied and Induced Electric Fields

The applied electric field (Eapp) is the field that exists in the absence of the metallic conductor (obstacle). The induced electric field (Eind) is the field that arises from the induced surface charges. The total field is the sum of the applied and induced electric fields.

E E app E ind