Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Electric Field Lines

Electric Field Lines

The magnitude or strength of an electric field in the space surrounding a source charge is related directly to the quantity of charge on the source charge and inversely to the distance from the source charge. The direction of the electric field is always directed in the direction that a positive test charge would be pushed or pulled if placed in the space surrounding the source charge. Since electric field is a vector quantity, it can be represented by a vector arrow. For any given location, the arrows point in the direction of the electric field and their length is proportional to the strength of the electric field at that location. Such vector arrows are shown in the diagram below. Note that the length of the arrows are longer when closer to the source charge and shorter when further from the source charge.

A more useful means of visually representing the vector nature of an electric field is through the use of electric field lines of force. Rather than draw countless vector arrows in the space surrounding a source charge, it is perhaps more useful to draw a pattern of several lines which extend between infinity and the source charge. These pattern of lines, sometimes referred to as electric field lines, point in the direction which a positive test charge would accelerate if placed upon the line. As such, the lines are directed away from positively charged source charges and toward negatively charged source charges. To communicate information about the direction of the field, each line must include an arrowhead which points in the appropriate direction. An electric field line pattern could include an infinite number of lines. Because drawing such large quantities of lines tends to decrease the readability of the patterns, the number of lines are usually limited. The presence of a few lines around a charge is typically sufficient to convey the nature of the electric field in the space surrounding the lines.

No comments:

Post a Comment