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[link] (b) shows the electric field of two unlike charges. The field is stronger between the charges. In that region, the fields from each charge are in the same direction, and so their strengths add. The field of two unlike charges is weak at large distances, because the fields of the individual charges are in opposite directions and so their strengths subtract. At very large distances, the field of two unlike charges looks like that of a smaller single charge.

Two charges q one and q two are placed at a distance and their field lines shown by curved arrows move away from each other. At a point P on the field lines emanating from q one, the resultant electric field is represented by a vector arrow tangent to the curve representing this field line. A point P prime on a field line emanating from the charge q two and the resultant electric field is represented by a vector arrow tangent to the curve representing this field line.
Two positive point charges q 1 size 12{q rSub { size 8{1} } } {} and q 2 size 12{q rSub { size 8{2} } } {} produce the resultant electric field shown. The field is calculated at representative points and then smooth field lines drawn following the rules outlined in the text.
In part a, two negative charges of magnitude minus q are placed at some distance. Their field lines are represented by curved arrows terminating into the negative charges. The curves are divergent. In part b, two charges are placed at a distance where one is positive labeled as plus q and other is negative labeled as minus q. The field lines represented by curved arrows start from the positive charge and end at the negative charge. The curves are convergent.
(a) Two negative charges produce the fields shown. It is very similar to the field produced by two positive charges, except that the directions are reversed. The field is clearly weaker between the charges. The individual forces on a test charge in that region are in opposite directions. (b) Two opposite charges produce the field shown, which is stronger in the region between the charges.

We use electric field lines to visualize and analyze electric fields (the lines are a pictorial tool, not a physical entity in themselves). The properties of electric field lines for any charge distribution can be summarized as follows:

  1. Field lines must begin on positive charges and terminate on negative charges, or at infinity in the hypothetical case of isolated charges.
  2. The number of field lines leaving a positive charge or entering a negative charge is proportional to the magnitude of the charge.
  3. The strength of the field is proportional to the closeness of the field lines—more precisely, it is proportional to the number of lines per unit area perpendicular to the lines.
  4. The direction of the electric field is tangent to the field line at any point in space.
  5. Field lines can never cross.

The last property means that the field is unique at any point. The field line represents the direction of the field; so if they crossed, the field would have two directions at that location (an impossibility if the field is unique).

Section summary

  • Drawings of electric field lines are useful visual tools. The properties of electric field lines for any charge distribution are that:
  • Field lines must begin on positive charges and terminate on negative charges, or at infinity in the hypothetical case of isolated charges.
  • The number of field lines leaving a positive charge or entering a negative charge is proportional to the magnitude of the charge.
  • The strength of the field is proportional to the closeness of the field lines—more precisely, it is proportional to the number of lines per unit area perpendicular to the lines.
  • The direction of the electric field is tangent to the field line at any point in space.
  • Field lines can never cross.

Conceptual questions

Compare and contrast the Coulomb force field and the electric field. To do this, make a list of five properties for the Coulomb force field analogous to the five properties listed for electric field lines. Compare each item in your list of Coulomb force field properties with those of the electric field—are they the same or different? (For example, electric field lines cannot cross. Is the same true for Coulomb field lines?)

Problem exercises

(a) Sketch the electric field lines near a point charge + q . (b) Do the same for a point charge –3.00 q .

Sketch the electric field lines a long distance from the charge distributions shown in [link] (a) and (b)

[link] shows the electric field lines near two charges q 1 size 12{q rSub { size 8{1} } } {} and q 2 size 12{q rSub { size 8{2} } } {} . What is the ratio of their magnitudes? (b) Sketch the electric field lines a long distance from the charges shown in the figure.

Field lines between a positive and a negative charge represented by curved lines is shown
The electric field near two charges.

Sketch the electric field lines in the vicinity of two opposite charges, where the negative charge is three times greater in magnitude than the positive. (See [link] for a similar situation).

Questions & Answers

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At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of physics. OpenStax CNX. Aug 25, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11738/1.5
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