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The Magnetic Field of a Solenoid

AP Physics C
Montwood High School
R. Casao
A solenoid is a long wire
wound as a helix to produce a
reasonably uniform magnetic
field B in the interior of the
solenoid coils when the
solenoid carries a steady current
When the coils (turns) are
closely spaced, each turn can be
approximated as a circular loop
and the net magnetic field B is
the vector sum of the fields
resulting from all of the turns.
Inside the solenoid, the field lines are nearly
parallel, uniformly distributed, and close
together, indicating that the magnetic field is
The magnetic field lines between the turns tends
to cancel each other.
The magnetic field outside the solenoid is
nonuniform and weak.
The field at exterior points, such as P, are
weak because current elements on the upper
portions tends to cancel the current
elements on the lower portions.
If the turns are closely spaced and the solenoid
is of a finite length, the field lines resemble the
magnetic field lines of a bar magnet, with field
lines diverging from one end and converging at
the opposite end.
One end of the solenoid behaves like the north
pole of a bar magnet (diverging end) and the other
end behaves like a south pole (converging end).
As the length of the solenoid increases, the
magnetic field within it becomes more and more
An ideal solenoid is one in which the turns are
closely spaced and the length is long compared to
the radius.
The magnetic field outside the solenoid is weak
compared to the magnetic field inside the solenoid
The magnetic field is uniform over a large volume.
Apply Amperes law to
determine the magnetic
field inside an ideal
A longitudinal cross section
of part of the ideal solenoid
carries a current I.
The magnetic field B inside
the solenoid is uniform and
parallel to the axis of the
solenoid and the magnetic
field B outside the solenoid
is zero.
Consider an Amperian
rectangle of length l and
width w.
Apply Amperes law by
evaluating the integral of
Bds over each of the four
sides of the rectangle.
The contribution from side
3 is zero because B = 0 T
outside the solenoid.
The contributions from
sides 2 and 4 are both 0
since B is perpendicular to
ds along these paths and
Bds = Bdscos q =
B ds cos 90 = 0.
Along side 1, B is parallel
to the length l, therefore, all
elements of length ds are
parallel to B and Bds =
B ds cos q = B ds cos 0 =
B ds.
Mathematically in integral form:

The right side of Amperes law involves the total
current that passes through the area bound by the
rectangular path of integration.
The total current through the rectangular path
) equals the current through each turn
multiplied by the number of turns.
l B s d B s d B s d B
l path l path
= = =

Amperes law:

The quantity is the number of turns per unit

Magnetic field B inside a solenoid:
I N l B
I s d B
enclosed o


n =
I n B

The magnetic field equation works best for

points near the center of a long solenoid.
The magnetic field near each end of the solenoid is
smaller than the value given by the equation.
At the end of a long solenoid, the magnitude of the
magnetic field B is about one half that of the field
near the center.
The direction of the magnetic field in a solenoid
can be determined using the right hand rule:
Curl the fingers of the right hand in the direction of
the current.
The thumb points in the direction of the magnetic
Rectangular Toroid
For problems that
reference a rectangular
The toroid shape remains
The interior area is a
rectangle of inner radius
a and outer radius b and
height h.