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The voltages in both of these examples could be measured with a meter that compares the measured potential with ground potential. Ground potential is often taken to be zero (instead of taking the potential at infinity to be zero). It is the potential difference between two points that is of importance, and very often there is a tacit assumption that some reference point, such as Earth or a very distant point, is at zero potential. As noted in Electric Potential Energy: Potential Difference , this is analogous to taking sea level as h = 0 size 12{h=0} {} when considering gravitational potential energy, PE g = mgh size 12{"PE" rSub { size 8{g} } = ital "mgh"} {} .

Section summary

  • Electric potential of a point charge is V = kQ / r size 12{V= ital "kQ"/r} {} .
  • Electric potential is a scalar, and electric field is a vector. Addition of voltages as numbers gives the voltage due to a combination of point charges, whereas addition of individual fields as vectors gives the total electric field.

Conceptual questions

In what region of space is the potential due to a uniformly charged sphere the same as that of a point charge? In what region does it differ from that of a point charge?

Can the potential of a non-uniformly charged sphere be the same as that of a point charge? Explain.


A 0.500 cm diameter plastic sphere, used in a static electricity demonstration, has a uniformly distributed 40.0 pC charge on its surface. What is the potential near its surface?

144 V

What is the potential 0 . 530 × 10 –10 m size 12{0 "." "530" times "10" rSup { size 8{ - 10} } `m} {} from a proton (the average distance between the proton and electron in a hydrogen atom)?

(a) A sphere has a surface uniformly charged with 1.00 C. At what distance from its center is the potential 5.00 MV? (b) What does your answer imply about the practical aspect of isolating such a large charge?

(a) 1.80 km

(b) A charge of 1 C is a very large amount of charge; a sphere of radius 1.80 km is not practical.

How far from a 1 . 00 µC size 12{1 "." "00" mC} {} point charge will the potential be 100 V? At what distance will it be 2.00 × 10 2 V ? size 12{2 "." "00" times "10" rSup { size 8{ 2} } `V} {}

What are the sign and magnitude of a point charge that produces a potential of –2.00 V at a distance of 1.00 mm?

–2 . 22 × 10 13 C size 12{2 "." "22" times "10" rSup { size 8{ - 13} } `C} {}

If the potential due to a point charge is 5 . 00 × 10 2 V size 12{5 "." "00" times "10" rSup { size 8{ 2} } `V} {} at a distance of 15.0 m, what are the sign and magnitude of the charge?

In nuclear fission, a nucleus splits roughly in half. (a) What is the potential 2 . 00 × 10 14 m size 12{2 "." "00" times "10" rSup { size 8{ - 14} } `m} {} from a fragment that has 46 protons in it? (b) What is the potential energy in MeV of a similarly charged fragment at this distance?

(a) 3 . 31 × 10 6 V size 12{3 "." "31" times "10" rSup { size 8{6} } `V} {}

(b) 152 MeV

A research Van de Graaff generator has a 2.00-m-diameter metal sphere with a charge of 5.00 mC on it. (a) What is the potential near its surface? (b) At what distance from its center is the potential 1.00 MV? (c) An oxygen atom with three missing electrons is released near the Van de Graaff generator. What is its energy in MeV at this distance?

An electrostatic paint sprayer has a 0.200-m-diameter metal sphere at a potential of 25.0 kV that repels paint droplets onto a grounded object. (a) What charge is on the sphere? (b) What charge must a 0.100-mg drop of paint have to arrive at the object with a speed of 10.0 m/s?

(a) 2 . 78 × 10 - 7 C size 12{2 "." "78" times "10" rSup { size 8{-7} } `C} {}

(b) 2 . 00 × 10 - 10 C size 12{2 "." "00" times "10" rSup { size 8{-10} } `C} {}

In one of the classic nuclear physics experiments at the beginning of the 20th century, an alpha particle was accelerated toward a gold nucleus, and its path was substantially deflected by the Coulomb interaction. If the energy of the doubly charged alpha nucleus was 5.00 MeV, how close to the gold nucleus (79 protons) could it come before being deflected?

(a) What is the potential between two points situated 10 cm and 20 cm from a 3 . 0 µC size 12{3 "." 0 mC} {} point charge? (b) To what location should the point at 20 cm be moved to increase this potential difference by a factor of two?

Unreasonable Results

(a) What is the final speed of an electron accelerated from rest through a voltage of 25.0 MV by a negatively charged Van de Graaff terminal?

(b) What is unreasonable about this result?

(c) Which assumptions are responsible?

(a) 2.96 × 10 9 m/s

(b) This velocity is far too great. It is faster than the speed of light.

(c) The assumption that the speed of the electron is far less than that of light and that the problem does not require a relativistic treatment produces an answer greater than the speed of light.

Questions & Answers

How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
How can I make nanorobot?
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
how can I make nanorobot?
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
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Source:  OpenStax, General physics ii phy2202ca. OpenStax CNX. Jul 05, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11538/1.2
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