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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

example ofchange of state of the body in the effectof heat
Abiodun Reply
what is normal force?
Neyaz Reply
the force that pushes upward on us. the force that opposes gravity
clifford
upthrust of air
Abdikadir
Newton's 3rd law. the force of the ground (earth) that pushes back on gravity, keeping us on the ground instead of sinking into it.
clifford
I really need lots of questions on frictional force
Ogboru Reply
Questions or answers?
Shii
I can help answering what I can
Shii
does friction also need some force to perform?
Mohit
no friction is a force just like the gravitational force
clifford
yeah but u can't apply friction anywhere else like other forces
Mohit
I don't understand that question. friction does work alongside other forces based on the situation.
clifford
eg. when walking there are two forces acting on us gravitational and frictional force. friction helps us move forward and gravity keeps us on the ground
clifford
friction is a contact force. Two surfaces are necessary for the force to work.
clifford
hope this helped
clifford
the friction force which oppose while it contact with surrounding. there are two kind of friction. slidding and rolling friction.
Neyaz
Two unequal masses M1 and M2 are connected by a string of tension T on a plane,find the acceleration and tension in the string
Ogboru
derive the equation
Ogboru
Hi
Olamide
What is physics?
Jeuloriz Reply
physics is a branch of science in which we are dealing with the knowledge of our physical things. macroscopic as well as microscopic. we are going look inside the univers with the help of physics. you can learn nature with the help of physics. so many branches of physics you have to learn physics.
vijay
What are quarks?
Breanna Reply
6 type of quarks
Neyaz
what is candela
Akani Reply
Candela is the unit for the measurement of light intensity.
Osei
any one can prove that 1hrpower= 746 watt
Neyaz Reply
Newton second is the unit of ...............?
Neyaz
Impulse and momentum
Fauzia
force×time and mass× velocity
vijay
Good
Neyaz
What is the simple harmonic motion?
Fauzia Reply
oscillatory motion under a retarding force proportional to the amount of displacement from an equilibrium position
Yuri
Straight out of google, you could do that to, I suppose.
Yuri
*too
Yuri
ok
Fauzia
Oscillatory motion under a regarding force proportional to the amount of displacement from an equilibrium position
Neyaz
examples of work done by load of gravity
Maureen Reply
What is ehrenfest theorem?
Fauzia Reply
You can look it up, faster and more reliable answer.
Yuri
That isn't a question to ask on a forum and I also have no idea what that is.
Yuri
what is the work done by gravity on the load 87kj,11.684m,mass xkg[g=19m/s
Maureen
What is law of mass action?
Fauzia Reply
rate of chemical reactions is proportional to concentration of reactants ...
muhammad
ok thanks
Fauzia
what is lenses
Ndobe Reply
lenses are two types
Fauzia
concave and convex
muhammad
right
Fauzia
speed of light in space
Vikash Reply
in vacuum speed of light is 3×10^8 m/s
vijay
ok
Vikash
2.99×10^8m/s
Umair
2.8820^8m/s
Muhammed
which is correct answer
Vikash
he is correct but we can round up in simple terms
vijay
3×10^8m/s
vijay
is it correct
Fauzia
I mean 3*10^8 m/s ok
vijay
299792458 meter per second
babar
3*10^8m/s
Neyaz
how many Maxwell relations in thermodynamics
vijay
how we can do prove them?
vijay
What is second law of thermodynamics?
Neyaz
please who has a detailed solution to the first two professional application questions under conservation of momentum
Kwaku Reply
I want to know more about pressure
Osei
I can help
Emeh
okay go on
True
I mean on pressure
Emeh
definition of Pressure
John
it is the force per unit area of a substance.S.I unit is Pascal 1pascal is defined as 1N acting on 1m² area i.e 1pa=1N/m²
Emeh
pls explain Doppler effect
Emmex
solve this an inverted differential manometer containing oil specific gravity 0.9 and manometer reading is 400mm find the difference of pressure
Abayomi Reply
Practice Key Terms 6

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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