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PHYS 208

Spring 2009

#2 1

Electric Field

Electric eld of a ring of charge

A ring-shaped conductor with radius R carries a total charge Q uniformly distributed around it. Find the electric eld at a point P that lies on the axis of the ring at a distance x from its center.

(The ring lies on the yz plane.) We rst calculate the linear charge density, = Then dq is dq = ds = The distance between dq and P is r, which is r= and, from the gure, cos = x x = , r x 2 + a2 sin = R R = . r x2 + R 2 x2 + R 2 , Q Q Rd = d. 2R 2 Q . 2R

Note that both r and the angle are identical for any point ds on the circle so that they do not depend on the integration variable . From the geometry of the system, we can see that the resulting electric eld points the positive x-direction. (The other component of dE lies on the yz plane and is canceled out.) Then dE = dE cos x , i where dE = 1 dq . 4 0 x2 + R2 1

Since Ex = we get Ex =
2 dq 1 cos 2 + R2 4 0 0 x 2 1 Q 1 x = d 2 2 4 0 0 2 x + R x2 + R2 2 x 1 Q d = 4 0 2 (x2 + R2 )3/2 0 1 Qx = . 4 0 (x2 + R2 )3/2

dEx ,

Therefore,

Qx 1 x . i 4 0 (x2 + R2 )3/2 Therefore, when P is at the center of the ring, E = 0. When P is much farther from the ring (x R), we get E= Ex = Qx 1 Qx 1 Q 1 = , 2 + R2 )3/2 3 4 0 (x 4 0 x 4 0 x2

which means that the ring would appear like a point charge of Q.

Electric eld of a uniformly charged disk

Find the electric eld caused by a disk of radius R with a uniform positive surface charge density at a point along the axis of disk a distance x from its center. Assume that x is positive.

To solve this problem, we use the result of the previous example, i.e. the electric eld caused by a ring of charge. First, consider the ring of width dr. Then the integration variable is r and is from r = 0 to r = R. Since the surface charge density is = Q/(R2 ), the charge dq carried by the ring is dq = 2rdr. 2

The circumference of the ring is 2r and the length in the radial direction is dr, so the area is R 2rdr. You should verify that 0 dq = Q. Now, the electric eld dE due to the ring is pointing the positive x-direction and its magnitude is dEx = from the previous example. Thus, Ex
R 1 dqx dEx = = 2 + r 2 )3/2 4 0 0 (x r=0 R 1 2rdrx = 4 0 0 (x2 + r2 )3/2 rdr x R = 2 + r 2 )3/2 2 0 0 (x r=R

dqx 1 , 2 + r 2 )3/2 4 0 (x

x 1 20 x2 + r 2 0 1 1 x + = 2 + R2 20 x x x . = 1 2 + R2 20 x

Again, we can verify that the disk would look like a point charge when x is much larger than R. To see this, use the Taylor expansion (1 + a)n 1 + na, Then, if x R, R/x 1, and
1/2

when a

1.

x x R2 1 =1 =1 1+ 2 x x2 + R 2 x 1 + R2 /x2 Therefore, Ex

1 R2 =1 1 2 x2

R2 = 2. 2x

R2 Q R2 1 Q = = , 2 2 2 2x2 2 0 2x R 0 4 0 x2

where we have used = Q/(R2 ). Another interesting limit is when R x, i.e., the electric eld produced by an innite sheet of charge. In this case, x x 1 1 1, R x2 + R 2 therefore, Ex = . 20 This shows that the electric eld produced by an innite sheet of charge takes the same value independent of the position x, so is a constant electric eld. 3

Electric eld of two oppositely charged innite sheets

Two innite plane sheets are placed parallel to each other, separated by a distance d. They have uniform charge distribution and the upper plane has surface charge density and the lower plane has +. Find the electric elds in the three regions shown in the gure.

From the previous example, we know that the electric eld produced by an innite plane of surface charge density is E = /(2 0 ). The lower plane has negative charge so the electric eld is toward the plane and the upper plane has positive charge so the electric eld is from the upper plane. Since these electric eld is constant we have electric elds as shown in the gure. Therefore, in Region I, the two electric eld is antiparallel with the same magnitude, so there are canceled out. So we have Region I, above the upper plane Region II, between the planes Region III, below the lower plane E = 0, pointing upward, E=
0

E = 0.