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Physics 4B Lecture Notes

Chapter 25 - Electric Potential


Problem Set #4 - due:
Ch 25 - 6, 7, 12, 17, 22, 28, 34, 36, 41, 50, 56, 63

The Law of Conservation of Energy is the single most useful law of physics. In this chapter we will
develop the insights needed to make use of energy conservation to understand the ideas associated
electrical phenomena.

Lecture Outline
1. The Potential Energy of Charges in Electric Fields
2. The Definition of Electric Potential
3. The Potential Due to Point Charges
4. The Potential Due to Continuous Charge Distributions
5. Finding the Electric Field from the Potential

1. The Potential Energy of Charges in Electric Fields

m q
g E

ds ds
Recall the definition of potential energy as the negativer of the work done by a conservative force,
r
∆U ≡ − W c . Using the definition of work, ∆U = − ∫ F • d s .
r r r r r r
Recall how this went with gravity, ∆Ug = − ∫ Fg • d s = − ∫ mg • ds = − m ∫ g • d s in general.
For a constant gravitational field, g, ∆Ug =-mgh.
r r r r r r
It goes the same way with electricity, ∆Ue = − ∫ F e • ds = − ∫ qE • ds = − q ∫ E • ds .
r r
∆U = − q∫ E • ds Electric Potential Energy

Example 1: Find the change in electric potential energy


when two protons initially 0.100nm apart are q=e ds = dr
completely separated. r r + +
The electric potential energy is, ∆U = − q∫ E • ds . q=e E
The field is due a point charge and the motion is along
the same direction, ˆr .
1 ∞ e2
∆U = − e ∫ k 2 dr = −ke 2  −  = −k
∞ e
R r  r R R

9(
1.6x10−19 )
2

∆U = −9x10 −9 = −2.3x10 −18 J


0.100x10

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Physics 4B Lecture Notes

Note that ∆U = U( ∞) − U(R) . It is customary to set U( ∞) ≡ 0 so we can say that the original
potential energy of the protons wasU(R) = +2.3x10 −18 J . These protons originally had a lot of
potential energy when close together and are quite happy to fly apart when given the chance.

2. The Definition of Electric Potential


The electric potential is defined as the potential energy per unit of charge.
∆U ≡ q ∆V The Definition of Electric Potential

The units of potential must be [ ∆V] =


[∆U] = joules . By definition, 1 joule = 1 Volt =1V
[rq] coulomb coulomb
r
The electric potential energy ∆U = − q∫ E • ds shows that the relationship between the field and the
potential is,
r r
∆V = − ∫ E • d s Calculation of the Potential from the E-field

Example 2: Find the voltage required on a set of parallel plates y


10.0cm apart to create a field of 1000N/C. + -

ds x
The relationship between the field and the potential is,
r r
∆V = − ∫ E • d s . E
For parallel plates the field is constant so, d

d
∆V = − ∫ Eˆi • dxˆi = − E ∫ dx = −Ed = −(1000)(.100) = −100V
0

Example 3: Find the kinetic energy that an electron released from the negative plate would have
just as it reaches the positive plate.
The change in the potential energy of the electron can be found + -
from the definition of potential, v=0
e e
∆U ≡ q ∆V = (−1.6x10−19 C)(+100V) = −1.6x10−17 J v
K i=0
Applying the Law of Conservation of Energy,
∆U + ∆K = 0 ⇒ ∆U = −∆K = −K f + Ki = −K f
⇒ K f = −∆U = +1.6x10−17 J
There is a more convenient unit for energy in problems like this.
Define 1 electron·volt = 1 eV ≡ 1.6x10 −19 J ⇒
∆U = (−1e)(+100V) = −100eV and Kf = −∆U = +100eV

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Physics 4B Lecture Notes

3. The Potential Due to Point Charges


Starting with the relationship between the field and the
r r
potential, ∆V = − ∫ E • d s and using the field of a point
q r ∞ dr q ds = dr
charge, ∆V = − ∫ k 2 ˆr • d s = −kq ∫ 2 = −k .
r ro r ro + +
Note that ∆V = V(∞) − V(r o ). If we define V(∞)=0, we E
ro
q
get the potential due to a point charge, V(r o ) = k
ro

q
V = k r The Potential Due to a Point Charge

Example 4: Find the potential due to a distant dipole along its axis.
Since potential is a scalar quantity we can just add up y
the potentials due to the individual point charges.
−q
= kq
q 1 1 
V = V+ + V− = k +k − 
x−a x+a x − a x + a  x
- + x
2a p -q a a +q
V = kq 2 2 =k 2 where p=2qa the dipole
x −a x − a2
moment.
p
For x >> a, V = k 2
x

Example 5: Find the energy required to assemble all the charges in example 4 assuming that there
is a charge Q at the position x.
From the definition of potential, ∆U ≡ q ∆V , we can find the potential energy needed to bring in
each charge to create this distribution. Choose the +q to be the first one. It can be moved into
position using no energy because there are no other charges around yet (∆V=0). Choose the -q
next,
q q2
∆Udipole = − q V+ = −q k = −k where V+ is the potential difference felt by the -q.
2a 2a
Next bring in the charge Q.
p 2aqQ
∆UQ = Q (V + + V− ) = QV dipole = Q k 2 = k 2
x x
2aqQ q2  2aQ q 
The total energy required is, ∆U = ∆Udipole + ∆UQ = k 2 − k = kq 2 −  .
x 2a  x 2a 

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Physics 4B Lecture Notes

4. The Potential Due to Continuous Charge Distributions


dq
The potential due to the point charge, dq, is dV = k r .
dq To find the potential due to the entire charge distribution we need to sum
r p over the dq's. That is, we need to integrate:
dq dq
∫ dV = k ∫ r ⇒ V = k ∫ r .

dq

V=k The Electric Potential Due to a
r Continuous Charge Distribution

Example 6: Find the potential due to a ring of charge, Q, and radius, R, a distance, x, from the
center along the axis.

Choose a small portion of the ring as a point charge, dq, and dq


dq r
use the potential due to a point charge, dV = k r . Since r is R
constant for all dq's on the ring, the integral is x
x
straightforward,
dq dq k k
∫ dV = k ∫ r ⇒ V = k ∫ r = r ∫ dq = r Q . Q
Q
In terms of R and x, V = k 1 .
( R2 + x2 2)
Example 7: Find the potential due to a spherical shell of radius, a, and charge, Q, a distance, z,
from the center of the shell.
Use the rings from example 6 as the dq's and sum
their potentials to find the potential due to the entire
sphere. By trigonometry, x = z − acos θ , so the Q a
potential, dV, due to the ring at an angle θ is, θ R z
dQ z
dV = k 1 .
(R + [z − acos θ]
2
)2 2
dQ
x
Note that R = asin θ , so,
dQ dQ
dV = k 1 dV = k
( ) ( )
1
a 2 sin 2 θ+ z 2 − 2zacos θ + a 2 cos2 θ 2 a 2 + z 2 − 2zacos θ 2
Since the charge is distributed uniformly over the surface,
dQ area of the strip 2πR adθ 2πa 2 sinθ dθ Q
= = 2 = 2 ⇒ dQ = sin θ dθ .
Q area of the sphere 4πa 4πa 2
Qsin θ dθ
Now dV can be written entirely in terms of θ, dV = k .
( )
1
2 a 2 + z 2 − 2zacos θ 2

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The integration can be completed by letting u = a 2 + z 2 − 2zacos θ ⇒ du = 2zasin θ dθ . So,


kQ  2 1 π
kQ π − 1 2
( )
V
∫0dV = 4az ∫θ=0u du ⇒ V = 4az ⋅ 2  a + z − 2zacos θ 0
2 2

kQ 
Finally, V = (a + z )2 − (a − z)2  .
2az 
if z > a V = kQ a + z − z − a = k Q
 2az
[( ) ( )] z
There are two cases: V = 
kQ Q
if z < a V =
 2az
[ (a + z ) − (a − z )] = k
a
Notice that the potential is constant inside the sphere which is consistent with the constant field we
expect. It falls off as the potential of a point charge outside.

5. Finding the Electric Field from the Potential r


r
To calculate the potential from the field we use ∆V = − ∫ E • d s .
r r E
To go the other way around we write, dV = − E • d s .

The right hand side is the component of E along ds times ds itself, dV = −E s ds .


ds
dV
Dividing both sides by ds gives the component of E along ds, E s = − . Es
ds
dV
Es = − Calculation of the E-field from the Potential
ds
r r  ∂V ˆ ∂V ˆ ∂V ˆ 
Since E = E x ˆi + E y ˆj + E z kˆ we can write E = −  i+ j+ k  ≡ −∇V
 ∂x ∂y ∂z 

Example 8: Find the axial field due to a dipole.


p
From example 4, V = k 2 . The electric field along the x-axis can be found by applying
x
dV dV p
Es = − ⇒ Ex = − = 2k 3 as we got before!
ds dx x

Example 9: Find the axial field due to a ring of charge Q.


Q
From example 6, V = k 1 . The electric field along the x-axis can be found by applying
(
R +x
2 2 2
)
 1 
( )
dV dV − 32 Qx
Es = − ⇒ Ex = − = −kQ − R 2 + x 2 ( 2x ) = k
(R 2 + x 2 ) 2
3
ds dx  2 

as we got before!

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Physics 4B Lecture Notes

Chapter 25 - Summary
r r
Electric Potential Energy ∆U = − q∫ E • ds

The Definition of Electric Potential ∆U ≡ q ∆V


r r
Calculation of the Potential from the E-field ∆V = − ∫ E • d s

q
The Potential Due to a Point Charge V = k r

dq
The Electric Potential Due to a Continuous Charge Distribution V = k ∫ r
dV
Calculation of the E-field from the Potential E s = −
ds

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