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PHYS1231 Higher Physics 1B

Solutions HPS 2
Basic info:
Although the term voltage is used every day, in physics it is a measure of a fairly abstract
quantity called Electric Potential. Its important to distinguish electric potential from electric
potential energy (U). They are similar in that they are both scalars but they are not the same. You
can think of electric potential as the potential for moving a positive charge at some point in space.
So, points closer to a positive charge have greater electric potential. However, more often we talk
about the potential difference between two points:

Potential(V) =



V =


We can also define the electric potential difference between two points (A and B) in an electric
field E:

V = E.ds

Where the integral is along the path from point A and point B.
Remember also that with electric potential the principle of superposition applies.
In all of the following solutions


4 0

1. (a) Electrons tend to be attracted towards regions of high potential. (b) Equipotential
surfaces do NOT intersect. (c) No. At a position equidistant between two equal positive point
charges the total electric field can equal zero because the electric fields will have equal
magnitudes but exactly opposite directions. However, the electric potential due to either of
these charges has no direction and, in fact, the electric potential from both charges will add
together. (d) No. You need to know the integral of E.ds along a path from a point of known
voltage. (e) From the mathematical relationship between V and E, -dV/ds = E, where V is
constant, therefore E = 0.

(refer to the diagram above) For the first charge to be added to this configuration no work is
done because there is no pre-existing electric field. For the rest of the question we recognise
that work done = U and that U = QV. For the second (negative) charge to be brought
within a of the first we assume that the second charge originates at an infinite distance
away, where the electric potential = 0V (this assumption is repeated with all the subsequent
additions). Then, for the second point charge, the work done is:

For the third we consider its proximity to both the first and second charges and add this to the

and for the fourth

3. (a) The electric potential at a distance r from a point charge is given by

V = kQ/r. Where
V = 30V, k = 8.99 X 109Vm/C and Q = 1.5 X10-8C, r must = 4.495m, or, to two significant
figures r = 4.5m. (b) Potential is a hyperbolic function of r (ie. V 1/r). For equipotential
surfaces to be evenly separated you would have to have V r.
4. The potential at a distance r away from a point charge is given above. Then, for position A,
VA = kq/a 3kq/(a+d). Similarly, for point B, VB = kq/(a+d) 3kq/a. Then VA - VB = [kq/a
3kq/(a+d)] [kq/(a+d) 3kq/a] or,

and expanding this we get:

Clearly, when d = 0 the above expression = 0 and simultaneously VA = VB.


(a) If q1 and q2 are point charges, VA = kq1/(0.15) + kq2/(0.05). Substituting in the values for
both charges and k = 8.99 X109Vm/C, VA = 6.0 X104V.
(b) First we need to determine the potential at B, VB which can be done in similar fashion to
part (a). VB = kq1/(0.05) + kq2/(0.15) = -7.8 X105V. Then the potential difference
VA - VB = 8.4 X105V, and from:

Using the value of Q = 3.0 X10-6C, the work done in moving that charge from B to A =
2.5J. External work is done to move the positive charge to a higher electric potential so
the system of charges has a higher potential energy.
6. (a) For a given section of the charged line dr, there is a charge dr. The total electric
potential at P is found by summing the contribution to the potential VP due to each of
these sections from r = 0 close to P, to r = L furthest from P.

(b) Now we use y as a variable quantity in E = -dV/dy in the y-direction. This produces an
expression for E:

(c) We can not simply differentiate the result from (a) with respect to x to get the electric field
as the result from (a) does not take into account how the voltage is varying in the x
One way to do this is to note that if we move to the right of point P
the distance from the
point to the charge will increase slightly. We will replace y with
x2 + y 2
The same thing happens on the left so if we were to draw a graph
of voltage versus distance we would have a maximum at x=0 (and a nice smoothly
varying function) and thus when we differentiated with respect to x we would get zero at
Alternatively you could make the substitution and differentiate with respect to x. You
would then need to use lhospitals rule to evaluate the derivative, which turns out to be
7. (a) VA = kq/(2.06) = 5062V and VB = kq/(1.17) = 8913V. Then the potential difference
VA VB = -3.85 kV. (b) The electric potentials calculated in part (a) depended on the
distances to A and B not the displacements. Direction plays no part in the calculation, so the
potential difference remains the same.
8. Firstly we must consider the wire to be a good conductor and assume that it has negligible
resistance. With an external electric field applied to any neutral conductor, the mobile
charges within that conductor will move until the net field at every point inside the conductor
is zero. In this case negative charge -Q will accumulate at the sphere closest to the +q
charge. If the radius of these spheres r << R, then we can consider them as point charges.
The potential due to a point charge q at distance r is Kq/r.
We also assume that no charge accumulating on the wire (though in practice this
assumption may not be valid).
Then, potential at centre of sphere +Q is

Potential at centre of sphere Q is

Since the spheres must be at the same potentials, we have:


Since L>>R>>r, this becomes


Basic info:
A capacitor is an electronic device for storing charge (Q) given a supplied voltage (V). As shown
symbolically in circuit diagrams, and often in reality, a capacitor can be considered as two
charged metal plates separated by a non-conducting medium (eg. Air), The definition of
capacitance, C:



or in terms of the area (A), the separation (d) of the plates and the dielectric constant of the
intervening medium m.


A 0 m

Total capacitance, of several capacitors connected in series:

connected in parallel:
The energy stored in a capacitor U:

= +
+ ...
CT C1 C 2 C 3

CT =C1 +C 2 + C 3 + ...

U = CV 2


Using the following:


A 0 m

where A = (0.08)2 m2, d = 0.001m and 0 = 8.85 X 10-12 F/m and assuming a vacuum
between the plates m = 1, then C = 1.78 X 10-10 F. Then CV = Q and Q = 1.8 X 10-8 C.
10. First combine C1 and C2 in series, so C12 = (1/C1 + 1/C2)-1 = 3.27 X10-6 F. Then combine
C12 and C3 in parallel: 3.27 X10-6 + 3.9 X10-6F =7.17 X10-6 F
11. (a) The over-riding rule here will be the conservation of charge. First we need to find exactly
how much charge is stored and where. With 96.6 V across C1 there must be Q = CV = 1.12
X 10-4C on C1. By the same formula the charge on C2 is 3.11 X 10-4C. When the switches
are closed the effective capacitance will be = C1 + C2 = 4.38 F and the net charge across
this will be = 3.11 X 10-4C 1.12 X 10-4C = 1.99 X 10-4C. Therefore the voltage can be found
by V = Q/C = 45.4V (b) Now, given the voltage across both capacitors, we can find their
respective charges by Q = CV. For C1, Q1 = 52.7 X 10-6C and (c) for C2, Q2 = 146 X 10-6C.

12. (a) With capacitors arranged in series the charge across each capacitor is the same even if
the voltage isnt. Here we begin by calculating the net total capacitance =[1/(2F) +
1/(8F)] = 1.6 F and, given the voltage across this equivalent capacitor is 300V, the
charge each of the capacitor components will be Q = CV = 4.8 X 10 C. Now, knowing the
charge across each capacitor the voltage across the 2F, V2 = Q/2F = 240 V and
across the 8F, V8 = Q/8F = 60V. (b) Now the capacitors are effectively connected in
parallel with a combined capacitance of 10F and across capacitors in parallel the voltage
is the same. Hence we can say, through conservation of charge, that the charge on this
equivalent capacitor is Q = 9.6 10-4C and from V=Q/10F, the potential difference across
each of the component capacitors is = 96V. However the charge on each capacitor will be
redistributed: C2 has Q2 = 96V X 2F = 1.92 X 10 C; C8 has Q8 = 96V X 8F = 7.68 X 10
C. (c) With equal charge on each capacitor, reconnecting them in reverse will result in a
net charge = 0 everywhere. With zero charge there is also zero potential difference.

What is being changed here is the capacitance properties of the capacitor. After the battery
has been disconnected there is a fixed amount of charge on the capacitor but, more than
likely, the dielectric will increase the capacitance (m > 1) which means (by C = Q/V) the
voltage across the capacitor should decrease. If the voltage decreases then so must the
electric field and the stored energy = 1/2 Q2/C

14. The dielectric material will break down when there is an electric field strength of 18 X106V/m
across it. The electric field across a capacitor is given by E = /20m (see also Gausss
Law applied to a charged sheet in Tutorial 10) where is the surface charge density = Q/A.
OK, so to prevent break down, Q/2A0m < 18 X106V/m. Now, we can work out the
maximum charge, Q = CV = 2.8 X10-4C, and, with m = 2.8 say:
A > 2.8 X10-4C/(2 X 2.80 X 18 X106V/m)
Therefore the area of one plate A = 0.314m2. Or, for both plates A = 0.63m2
15. If we consider the arrangement as two parallel capacitors of equal area = A/2 then we find:

A 0 1 A 0 2
A +
from which we get
C Total = 0 1 2

C Total =

Two limiting cases. Consider

1 = 0 then Ctotal =

A0 2

a capacitor of area A/2


1 = 2 then Ctotal =

A0 2

i.e., a capacitor of area A.

16. Total capacitance =6F and the stored energy = 1/2 X CV2. Then substituting in V = 300V
the stored energy = 0.27J