<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Properties of a conductor in electrostatic equilibrium

  1. The electric field is zero inside a conductor.
  2. Just outside a conductor, the electric field lines are perpendicular to its surface, ending or beginning on charges on the surface.
  3. Any excess charge resides entirely on the surface or surfaces of a conductor.

The properties of a conductor are consistent with the situations already discussed and can be used to analyze any conductor in electrostatic equilibrium. This can lead to some interesting new insights, such as described below.

How can a very uniform electric field be created? Consider a system of two metal plates with opposite charges on them, as shown in [link] . The properties of conductors in electrostatic equilibrium indicate that the electric field between the plates will be uniform in strength and direction. Except near the edges, the excess charges distribute themselves uniformly, producing field lines that are uniformly spaced (hence uniform in strength) and perpendicular to the surfaces (hence uniform in direction, since the plates are flat). The edge effects are less important when the plates are close together.

Two charged metal plates are shown. The lower plate has negative charge and the upper plate has positive charge. The electric field lines start from positive plate and enter the negative plate represented by arrows.
Two metal plates with equal, but opposite, excess charges. The field between them is uniform in strength and direction except near the edges. One use of such a field is to produce uniform acceleration of charges between the plates, such as in the electron gun of a TV tube.

Earth’s electric field

A near uniform electric field of approximately 150 N/C, directed downward, surrounds Earth, with the magnitude increasing slightly as we get closer to the surface. What causes the electric field? At around 100 km above the surface of Earth we have a layer of charged particles, called the ionosphere    . The ionosphere is responsible for a range of phenomena including the electric field surrounding Earth. In fair weather the ionosphere is positive and the Earth largely negative, maintaining the electric field ( [link] (a)).

In storm conditions clouds form and localized electric fields can be larger and reversed in direction ( [link] (b)). The exact charge distributions depend on the local conditions, and variations of [link] (b) are possible.

If the electric field is sufficiently large, the insulating properties of the surrounding material break down and it becomes conducting. For air this occurs at around 3 × 10 6 size 12{3 times "10" rSup { size 8{6} } } {} N/C. Air ionizes ions and electrons recombine, and we get discharge in the form of lightning sparks and corona discharge.

In part a, a child is flying a kite with two men in an open field on a bright sunny day. In part b, lightning appears over a body of water in stormy weather.
Earth’s electric field. (a) Fair weather field. Earth and the ionosphere (a layer of charged particles) are both conductors. They produce a uniform electric field of about 150 N/C. (credit: D. H. Parks) (b) Storm fields. In the presence of storm clouds, the local electric fields can be larger. At very high fields, the insulating properties of the air break down and lightning can occur. (credit: Jan-Joost Verhoef)

Electric fields on uneven surfaces

So far we have considered excess charges on a smooth, symmetrical conductor surface. What happens if a conductor has sharp corners or is pointed? Excess charges on a nonuniform conductor become concentrated at the sharpest points. Additionally, excess charge may move on or off the conductor at the sharpest points.

Questions & Answers

how do I set up the problem?
Harshika Reply
what is a solution set?
Harshika
hello, I am happy to help!
Shirley Reply
please can go further on polynomials quadratic
Abdullahi
I need quadratic equation link to Alpa Beta
Abdullahi Reply
find the value of 2x=32
Felix Reply
divide by 2 on each side of the equal sign to solve for x
corri
X=16
Michael
Want to review on complex number 1.What are complex number 2.How to solve complex number problems.
Beyan
use the y -intercept and slope to sketch the graph of the equation y=6x
Only Reply
how do we prove the quadratic formular
Seidu Reply
hello, if you have a question about Algebra 2. I may be able to help. I am an Algebra 2 Teacher
Shirley Reply
thank you help me with how to prove the quadratic equation
Seidu
may God blessed u for that. Please I want u to help me in sets.
Opoku
what is math number
Tric Reply
4
Trista
x-2y+3z=-3 2x-y+z=7 -x+3y-z=6
Sidiki Reply
Need help solving this problem (2/7)^-2
Simone Reply
x+2y-z=7
Sidiki
what is the coefficient of -4×
Mehri Reply
-1
Shedrak
the operation * is x * y =x + y/ 1+(x × y) show if the operation is commutative if x × y is not equal to -1
Alfred Reply
An investment account was opened with an initial deposit of $9,600 and earns 7.4% interest, compounded continuously. How much will the account be worth after 15 years?
Kala Reply
lim x to infinity e^1-e^-1/log(1+x)
given eccentricity and a point find the equiation
Moses Reply
A soccer field is a rectangle 130 meters wide and 110 meters long. The coach asks players to run from one corner to the other corner diagonally across. What is that distance, to the nearest tenths place.
Kimberly Reply
Jeannette has $5 and $10 bills in her wallet. The number of fives is three more than six times the number of tens. Let t represent the number of tens. Write an expression for the number of fives.
August Reply
What is the expressiin for seven less than four times the number of nickels
Leonardo Reply
How do i figure this problem out.
how do you translate this in Algebraic Expressions
linda Reply
why surface tension is zero at critical temperature
Shanjida
I think if critical temperature denote high temperature then a liquid stats boils that time the water stats to evaporate so some moles of h2o to up and due to high temp the bonding break they have low density so it can be a reason
s.
Need to simplify the expresin. 3/7 (x+y)-1/7 (x-1)=
Crystal Reply
. After 3 months on a diet, Lisa had lost 12% of her original weight. She lost 21 pounds. What was Lisa's original weight?
Chris Reply
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
Jobilize.com Reply
Practice Key Terms 6

Get the best Algebra and trigonometry course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, General physics ii phy2202ca. OpenStax CNX. Jul 05, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11538/1.2
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'General physics ii phy2202ca' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask