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  • Describe the relationship between voltage and electric field.
  • Derive an expression for the electric potential and electric field.
  • Calculate electric field strength given distance and voltage.

In the previous section, we explored the relationship between voltage and energy. In this section, we will explore the relationship between voltage and electric field. For example, a uniform electric field E size 12{E} {} is produced by placing a potential difference (or voltage) Δ V size 12{V} {} across two parallel metal plates, labeled A and B. (See [link] .) Examining this will tell us what voltage is needed to produce a certain electric field strength; it will also reveal a more fundamental relationship between electric potential and electric field. From a physicist’s point of view, either Δ V size 12{V} {} or E size 12{E} {} can be used to describe any charge distribution. Δ V size 12{V} {} is most closely tied to energy, whereas E size 12{E} {} is most closely related to force. Δ V size 12{V} {} is a scalar    quantity and has no direction, while E size 12{E} {} is a vector    quantity, having both magnitude and direction. (Note that the magnitude of the electric field strength, a scalar quantity, is represented by E size 12{V} {} below.) The relationship between Δ V size 12{V} {} and E size 12{E} {} is revealed by calculating the work done by the force in moving a charge from point A to point B. But, as noted in Electric Potential Energy: Potential Difference , this is complex for arbitrary charge distributions, requiring calculus. We therefore look at a uniform electric field as an interesting special case.

The figure shows two vertically oriented parallel plates A and B separated by a distance d. The plate A is positively charged and B is negatively charged. Electric field lines are parallel between the plates and curved at the ends of the plates. A charge q is moved from A to B. The work done W equals q times V sub A B, and the electric field intensity E equals V sub A B over d and potential difference delta V equals q times V sub A B.
The relationship between V size 12{V} {} and E size 12{E} {} for parallel conducting plates is E = V / d size 12{E=V/d} {} . (Note that Δ V = V AB size 12{ΔV=V rSub { size 8{"AB"} } } {} in magnitude. For a charge that is moved from plate A at higher potential to plate B at lower potential, a minus sign needs to be included as follows: –Δ V = V A V B = V AB . See the text for details.)

The work done by the electric field in [link] to move a positive charge q size 12{q} {} from A, the positive plate, higher potential, to B, the negative plate, lower potential, is

W = –Δ PE = q Δ V . size 12{W= - Δ"PE"= - qΔV} {}

The potential difference between points A and B is

–Δ V = ( V B V A ) = V A V B = V AB .

Entering this into the expression for work yields

W = qV AB . size 12{W= ital "qV" rSub { size 8{ ital "AB"} } } {}

Work is W = Fd cos θ size 12{W= ital "Fd""cos"?} {} ; here cos θ = 1 , since the path is parallel to the field, and so W = Fd . Since F = qE , we see that W = qEd . Substituting this expression for work into the previous equation gives

qEd = qV AB . size 12{qEd= ital "qV" rSub { size 8{ ital "AB"} } } {}

The charge cancels, and so the voltage between points A and B is seen to be

V AB = Ed E = V AB d (uniform E - field only),

where d size 12{d} {} is the distance from A to B, or the distance between the plates in [link] . Note that the above equation implies the units for electric field are volts per meter. We already know the units for electric field are newtons per coulomb; thus the following relation among units is valid:

1 N / C = 1 V / m . size 12{"1 N"/C="1 V"/m} {}

Voltage between points a and b

V AB = Ed E = V AB d (uniform E - field only),

where d size 12{d} {} is the distance from A to B, or the distance between the plates.

What is the highest voltage possible between two plates?

Dry air will support a maximum electric field strength of about 3.0 × 10 6 V/m size 12{3×"10" rSup { size 8{6} } " V/m"} {} . Above that value, the field creates enough ionization in the air to make the air a conductor. This allows a discharge or spark that reduces the field. What, then, is the maximum voltage between two parallel conducting plates separated by 2.5 cm of dry air?


We are given the maximum electric field E size 12{E} {} between the plates and the distance d between them. The equation V AB = Ed size 12{V rSub { size 8{"AB"} } =Ed} {} can thus be used to calculate the maximum voltage.


The potential difference or voltage between the plates is

V AB = Ed . size 12{V rSub { size 8{"AB"} } =Ed} {}

Entering the given values for E size 12{E} {} and d size 12{d} {} gives

V AB = ( 3.0 × 10 6 V/m ) ( 0.025 m ) = 7.5 × 10 4 V


V AB = 75 kV . size 12{V rSub { size 8{"AB"} } ="75" "kV"} {}

(The answer is quoted to only two digits, since the maximum field strength is approximate.)


One of the implications of this result is that it takes about 75 kV to make a spark jump across a 2.5 cm (1 in.) gap, or 150 kV for a 5 cm spark. This limits the voltages that can exist between conductors, perhaps on a power transmission line. A smaller voltage will cause a spark if there are points on the surface, since points create greater fields than smooth surfaces. Humid air breaks down at a lower field strength, meaning that a smaller voltage will make a spark jump through humid air. The largest voltages can be built up, say with static electricity, on dry days.

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Questions & Answers

what is the formula of displacement
Mohammed Reply
can some one tell me how v=RW is dimensionally correct?
ms-1 = m X Hz
What is displacement
Megha Reply
shortest distance b/w two points
explain distanace+direction
the change of postion from one point to another with direction
if we change thrle direction then displacement is destroy?
change the direction then?
what do u mean by i didnt understand bro
displacement is one dimension...?
displacement is the total length an object cover from initial to the final with respect to direction as Well as time.
displacement is the ratio of speed with respect to particular time
shortest distance travel from initial point to final point
is straight shortest line that connect initial pt with final pt.
what are the differences between vector and scalar quantity
Kabba Reply
vector is assigned to those physical quantity that has both direction and magnitude! example velocity ,scalar just has magnitude example Mass of an object. hope it helps
velocity is produce in fan...?
bilal Reply
how many electrons are there in 5 microcouloumb
Obed Reply
can a given total amount of mechanical energy be totally converted into heat energy..if so give example
Muhammad Reply
human running
what is the fumula for calculating specific heat capacity, fusion,fission and vaporization?
Dohn Reply
what is difference b/w vaporization and evaporation
evaporation is the process of extracting moisture while vaporization is process of becoming a vapor or gas
From a molecular standpoint they are both cooling processes. Also, you may want to explore states of matter😊 #myTwoCents ~Shi~
cooling is a similarlity in both process I am confused in difference
1- Evaporation is a process where a liquid change to gas without reaching its boiling point. 2- Vaporization is a process where a liquid change to gas after reaching its boiling point. 3- Sublimation is a process where a solid changes into vapour without passing through a liquid state
I see. Evaporation is a type of vaporization, that occurs on the surface of a liquid as it changes into the gaseous phase before reaching its boiling point. hope that aids
vaporisation is cooling process while vaporization is heating process
I mean to write evaporation is an heating process while vaporization is cooling process
Yea here are two applications. 1- your wet washed clothes dry under the sun, the water EVAPORATES 2- when u are cooking, it reaches a point where u need to add more water because the water you added previously is getting dried. this is VAPORIZATION. Am not sure which is a cooling or heating process
vaporization occur only when the evaporation get to level where the above cloud is been (saturated) so cooling take place and started to change to liquid (eg rain fall)
They are both properties of the same process so they're both cooling
what about sublimation? cooling or heating process?
evaporation is the increase in kinetic energy of the liquid which can be gone by adding heat
so its an heating process
sublimation is when a solid change to gas
evaporation is very definitely a cooling process. respectfully@Emmanuel when liquid turns to gas it requires more energy from its surroundings, this energy is in the form of heat, and when heat energy leaves the evaporating liquid it leaves it cooler. Thus, cooling process.
evaporation is very definitely a cooling process. respectfully@Emmanuel
You're right @Shi. I get your point
eascape velocity on the surface of Earth is 11.2 kms-1 the escape velocity on the surface of another planet of same mass as that of Earth but of 1/4 times of radius of Earth is a5.6kms-1 b11.2 kms-1 c22.4kms-1 d5.6ms-1
Emm.. is that a question? or..
it is McQ
c= Q/cm◇T
it's answer is 22.4
the time period of the artificial satellite is given by ?
Why is there no 2nd harmonic in the classical electron orbit?
Shree Reply
how to reform magnet after been demagneted
Inuwa Reply
A petrol engine has a output of 20 kilowatts and uses 4.5 kg of fuel for each hour of running. The energy given out when 1 kg of petrol is burnt is 4.8 × 10 to the power of 7 Joules. a) What is the energy output of the engine every hour? b) What is the energy input of the engine every hour?
Morris Reply
Issac Newton devised a genius way to calculate changing quantities...
what is the error during taking work done of a body..
Aliyu Reply
what kind of error do you think? and work is held by which force?
I am now in this group
theory,laws,principles and what-a-view are not defined. why? you
Douglas Reply
A simple pendulum is used in a physics laboratory experiment to obtain an experimental value for the gravitational acceleration, g . A student measures the length of the pendulum to be 0.510 meters, displaces it 10 o from the equilibrium position, and releases it. Using a s
Emmanuel Reply
so what question are you passing across... sir?
Two masses of 2 kg and 4 kg are held with a compressed spring between them. If the masses are released, the spring will push them away from each other. If the smaller mass moves off with a velocity of 6m/s, what is the stored energy in the spring when it is compressed?
Emmanuel Reply
54 joule
Reduce that two body problem into one body problem. Apply potential and k. E formula to get total energy of the system
i dont think dere is any potential energy... by d virtue of no height present
there is compressed energy,dats only potential energy na?
yes.. but... how will u approach that question without The Height in the question?
Can you explain how you get 54J?
Because mine is 36J
got 36J too
OK the answer is 54J Babar is correct
Conservation of Momentum
woow i see.. can you give the formula for this
Practice Key Terms 2

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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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