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# Fall 2008 Lecture 1-1 Physics 231

Electric Charges,
Forces, and
Fields
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-2 Physics 231
Electric Charges
Electric charge is a basic property of matter
Two basic charges
Positive and Negative
Each having an absolute value of
1.6 x 10
-19
Coulombs
Experiments have shown that
Like signed charges repel each other
Unlike signed charges attract each other
For an isolated system, the net charge of the
system remains constant
Charge Conservation
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-3 Physics 231
Two basics type of materials
Conductors
Materials, such as metals, that allow the free
movement of charges

Insulators
Materials, such as rubber and glass, that dont
allow the free movement of charges
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-4 Physics 231
Coulombs Law
Coulomb found that the electric force between
two charged objects is
Proportional to the product of the charges on
the objects, and
Inversely proportional to the separation of the
objects squared
2
2 1
r
q q
k F =
k being a proportionality constant, having a value
of 8.988 x 10
9
Nm
2
/c
2

Fall 2008 Lecture 1-5 Physics 231
Electric Force
12
2
2 1
12
r
r
q q
k F =

## This gives the force on charged object 2 due to charged

object 1
The direction of the force is either parallel or
antiparallel to this unit vector depending upon the
relative signs of the charges
12
r is a unit vector pointing from object 1 to object 2
As with all forces, the electric force is a Vector
So we rewrite Coulombs Law as
q
2
q
1
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-6 Physics 231
Electric Force
The force acting on each charged object has the
same magnitude -
but acting in opposite directions
(Newtons Third Law)
21 12
F F

=
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-7 Physics 231
Example 1
A charged ball Q
1
is fixed to a horizontal surface
as shown. When another massive charged
ball Q
2
is brought near, it achieves an
equilibrium position at a distance d
12
directly
above Q
1
.
When Q
1
is replaced by a different charged ball
Q
3
, Q
2
achieves an equilibrium position at a
distance d
23
(< d
12
) directly above Q
3
.
For 1a and 1b which is the correct answer

1a: A) The charge of Q
3
has the same sign of the charge of Q
1

B) The charge of Q
3
has the opposite sign as the charge of Q
1

C) Cannot determine the relative signs of the charges of Q
3
& Q
1

1b: A) The magnitude of charge Q
3
< the magnitude of charge Q
1

B) The magnitude of charge Q
3
> the magnitude of charge Q
1

C) Cannot determine relative magnitudes of charges of Q
3
& Q
1

Q
2
Q
1
g
d
12
Q
2
d
23
Q
3
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-8 Physics 231
To be in equilibrium, the total force on Q
2
must be zero.
The only other known force acting on Q
2
is its weight.
Therefore, in both cases, the electrical force on Q
2
must be directed upward
to cancel its weight.
Therefore, the sign of Q
3
must be the SAME as the sign of Q
1
A charged ball Q
1
is fixed to a horizontal surface
as shown. When another massive charged
ball Q
2
is brought near, it achieves an
equilibrium position at a distance d
12
directly
above Q
1
.
When Q
1
is replaced by a different charged ball
Q
3
, Q
2
achieves an equilibrium position at a
distance d
23
(< d
12
) directly above Q
3
.
1a: A) The charge of Q
3
has the same sign of the charge of Q
1

B) The charge of Q
3
has the opposite sign as the charge of Q
1

C) Cannot determine the relative signs of the charges of Q
3
& Q
1

Q
2
Q
1
g
d
12
Q
2
d
23
Q
3
Example 1
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-9 Physics 231
The electrical force on Q
2
must be the same in both cases it just cancels
the weight of Q
2

Since d
23
< d
12
, the charge of Q
3
must be SMALLER than the charge of Q
1

so that the total electrical force can be the same!!
A charged ball Q
1
is fixed to a horizontal surface
as shown. When another massive charged ball
Q
2
is brought near, it achieves an equilibrium
position at a distance d
12
directly above Q
1
.
When Q
1
is replaced by a different charged ball
Q
3
, Q
2
achieves an equilibrium position at a
distance d
23
(< d
12
) directly above Q
3
.
1b: A) The magnitude of charge Q
3
< the magnitude of charge Q
1

B) The magnitude of charge Q
3
> the magnitude of charge Q
1

C) Cannot determine relative magnitudes of charges of Q
3
& Q
1

Q
2
Q
1
g
d
12
Q
2
d
23
Q
3
Example 1
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-10 Physics 231
More Than Two Charges
q
q
1

q
2

q q
F
1

q q
F
2

net
F

If q
1
were the only other charge,
we would know the force on q
due to q
1
-
q q
F
1

If q
2
were the only other charge,
we would know the force on q
due to q
2
-
q q
F
2

Given charges q, q
1
, and q
2

What is the net force if both charges are present?
The net force is given by the Superposition Principle
2 1
F F F
net

+ =
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-11 Physics 231
Superposition of Forces
If there are more than two charged objects
interacting with each other
The net force on any one of the charged
objects is
The vector sum of the individual Coulomb
forces on that charged object

=
=
j i
r
r
q
k q F
ij
ij
i
j j

2

## Fall 2008 Lecture 1-12 Physics 231

Example Two
q
o
, q
1
, and q
2
are all point charges
where q
o
= -1C, q
1
= 3C, and
q
2
= 4C
What are F
0x
and F
0y
?
( ) ( ) y F x F F

sin

cos u u
20 20 20
=

20
0 2
r
x x
= u cos
20
2 0
r
y y
= u sin
x (cm)
y (cm)
1 2 3 4 5
4
3
2
1
q
o

q
2
q
1
u
2
10
1 0
10
r
q q
k F =
y F F

10 10
=

2
20
2 0
20
r
q q
k F =
20
20 20
r F F

20 10
F F

and calculate to Need
What is the force acting on q
o
?
We have that
20 10 0
F F F

+ =
Decompose into its x and y
components
20
F

## Fall 2008 Lecture 1-13 Physics 231

Example Two - Continued
10
F

x
F
0
y
F
0
20
F

u cos
20 0
F F
x
=
x x x
F F F
20 10 0
+ =
0
10
=
x
F
X-direction:
y y y
F F F
20 10 0
+ =
u sin
20 10 0
F F F
y
=
Y-direction:
x (cm)
y (cm)
1 2 3 4 5
4
3
2
1
q
o

q
2
q
1
20
F

10
F

0
F

## Fall 2008 Lecture 1-14 Physics 231

Example Two - Continued
N 52 . 11
0
=
x
F N 64 . 38
0
=
y
F
N 32 . 40
2
0
2
0 0
= + =
y x
F F F
The magnitude of is
0
F

## Putting in the numbers . . .

cm 3
10
= r
cm 5
20
= r
8 . 0 cos = u
N 4 . 14
20
= F N 30
10
= F
We then get for the components
At an angle given by
( )

40 . 73 ) 52 . 11 / 64 . 38 ( tan tan
1
0 0
1
= = =

x y
F F u
x (cm)
y (cm)
1 2 3 4 5
4
3
2
1
q
o

q
2
q
1
20
F

10
F

0
F

## Fall 2008 Lecture 1-15 Physics 231

Note on constants
k is in reality defined in terms of a more
fundamental constant, known as the
permittivity of free space.
2
2
12
0
0
C
10 854 . 8
4
1
Nm
x with
k

=
=
c
tc
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-16 Physics 231
Electric Field
The Electric Force is like the Gravitational
Force
Action at a Distance

The electric force can be thought of as
being mediated by an electric field.
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-17 Physics 231
What is a Field?
A Field is something that can be defined anywhere
in space
A field represents some physical quantity
(e.g., temperature, wind speed, force)
It can be a scalar field (e.g., Temperature field)
It can be a vector field (e.g., Electric field)
It can be a tensor field (e.g., Space-time curvature)
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-18 Physics 231
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88
73
64
A Scalar Field
A scalar field is a map of a quantity that has
only a magnitude, such as temperature
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-19 Physics 231
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82
83
68
55
66
83
75
80
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75
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72
84
73
57
88
92
77
56
88
73
64
A Vector Field
A vector field is a map of a quantity that is
a vector, a quantity having both magnitude
and direction, such as wind
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-20 Physics 231
Electric Field
We say that when a charged object is put at
a point in space,
The charged object sets up an Electric
Field throughout the space surrounding
the charged object

It is this field that then exerts a force on
another charged object
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-21 Physics 231
Electric Field
Like the electric force,
the electric field is also a vector

If there is an electric force acting on an
object having a charge q
o
, then the
electric field at that point is given by
0
q
F
E

=
(with the sign of q
0
included)
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-22 Physics 231
Electric Field
The force on a positively
charged object is in the same
direction as the electric field at
that point,
While the force on a negative
test charge is in the opposite
direction as the electric field
at the point
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-23 Physics 231
Electric Field
A positive charge sets up
an electric field pointing
away from the charge
A negative charge sets up an
electric field pointing
towards the charge
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-24 Physics 231
Electric Field
r
r
q
k E
2
=

## The electric field of a point charge can then be

shown to be given by
|
|
|
|
.
|

\
|
=

= j i
r
r
q
k
ij
ij
i
j j
q F
2

## Earlier we saw that the

force on a charged object
is given by
The term in parentheses remains the same if we
change the charge on the object at the point in
question
The quantity in the parentheses can be thought of as the
electric field at the point where the test object is placed
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-25 Physics 231
Electric Field
As with the electric force, if there are
several charged objects, the net electric
field at a given point is given by the
vector sum of the individual electric fields

=
i
i
E E

Fall 2008 Lecture 1-26 Physics 231
Electric Field
}
= r
r
dq
k E
2

## If we have a continuous charge distribution

the summation becomes an integral
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-27 Physics 231
Hints
1) Look for and exploit symmetries in the
problem.
2) Choose variables for integration
carefully.
3) Check limiting conditions for
appropriate result
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-28 Physics 231
Electric Field
Ring of Charge
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-29 Physics 231
Electric Field
Line of Charge
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-30 Physics 231
Two equal, but opposite charges are placed on the x axis. The
positive charge is placed at x = -5 m and the negative charge is
placed at x = +5m as shown in the figure above.
1) What is the direction of the electric field at point A?
a) up b) down c) left d) right e) zero
2) What is the direction of the electric field at point B?
a) up b) down c) left d) right e) zero
Example 3
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-31 Physics 231
Example 4
Two charges, Q
1
and Q
2
, fixed along the x-axis as
shown produce an electric field, E, at a point
(x,y) = (0,d) which is directed along the negative
y-axis.
Which of the following is true?
Q
2
Q
1
(c) E
Q
2
Q
1
(b)
E
Q
2
Q
1
x
y
E
d
(a) Both charges Q
1
and Q
2
are positive
(b) Both charges Q
1
and Q
2
are negative
(c) The charges Q
1
and Q
2
have opposite signs
E
Q
2
Q
1
(a)
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-32 Physics 231
Electric Field Lines
Possible to map out the electric field in a
region of space
An imaginary line that at any given point
has its tangent being in the direction of the
electric field at that point
The spacing, density, of lines is related to
the magnitude of the electric field at that
point
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-33 Physics 231
Electric Field Lines
At any given point, there can be only one
field line
The electric field has a unique direction at
any given point
Electric Field Lines
Begin on Positive Charges
End on Negative Charges

Fall 2008 Lecture 1-34 Physics 231
Electric Field Lines
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-35 Physics 231
Electric Dipole
An electric dipole is a pair of point charges
having equal magnitude but opposite sign that
are separated by a distance d.

Two questions concerning dipoles:
1) What are the forces and torques acting on a
dipole when placed in an external electric field?
2) What does the electric field of a dipole look
like?
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-36 Physics 231
Force on a Dipole
Given a uniform external field
Then since the charges are of
equal magnitude, the force on
each charge has the same
value
However the forces are in opposite directions!
Therefore the net force on the dipole is
F
net
= 0
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-37 Physics 231
Torque on a Dipole
The individual forces acting on the dipole
may not necessarily be acting along the
same line.
If this is the case, then there will be a
torque acting on the dipole, causing the
dipole to rotate.
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-38 Physics 231
Torque on a Dipole
( ) E d q

= t
The torque is then given by t = qE dsin|
d is a vector pointing from the negative charge to the
positive charge
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-39 Physics 231
Potential Energy of a Dipole
Given a dipole in an external field:
Dipole will rotate due to torque
Electric field will do work
The work done is the negative of the
change in potential energy of the dipole
The potential energy can be shown to be

( ) E d q U

=
Fall 2008 Lecture 1-40 Physics 231
Electric Field of a Dipole