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Lecture 7

TOPIC 6
ELECTRIC POTENTIAL
AND CAPACITOR

Outline
Electric Potential Energy and Potential Difference
Relation between Electric Potential and Electric Field
The Electron Volt, a Unit of Energy
Electric Potential Due to Point Charges
Equipotential Surface
Capacitance
Dielectrics
Storage of Electric Energy
The Electric Battery
Electric Current
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Electrostatic Potential Energy and


Potential Difference
Analogy between gravitational and electrical
potential energy:

Uniform
gravitational field

Uniform electric
field

WAB mghA mghB PE A PE B


WAB mghA mghB GPE A GPE B

WAB PE A PE B
WAB EPE A EPE B

AS
What is potential energy, PE ?
It is the energy due to position.
For the ball, because ball at A is at a
higher position, it possess higher
gravitational PE.
For the charge, because at A, nearer to the
positive plate, it possess more electrical
PE

The potential energy per unit charge is called


the electric potential.

WAB PE A PE B

qo
qo
qo
The electric potential at a given point is the
electric potential energy of a small test charge
divided by the charge itself:

PE
V
qo

SI Unit of Electric Potential:


joule/coulomb = volt (V)

PE B PE A WAB
VB V A

qo
qo
qo

PE WAB
V

qo
qo
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Example 1
The work done by the electric
force as the test charge (+2.0
x 106 C) moves from A to B is
+5.0 x 105 J.
(a) Find the difference in PE
between point B and point A.
(-5.0x10-5J)
(b) Determine
the
potential
difference between these
points.(-25V)
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Solution

Relation between Electric Potential and


Electric Field
Work is charge multiplied by potential:

PE B PE A WAB q (VB VA )
Work is also force multiplied by distance:

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Solving for the field,

VBA
E
d
If the field is not uniform, it can be calculated
at multiple points:

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The Electron Volt, a Unit of Energy


One electron volt (eV) is the energy gained by an
electron moving through a potential difference of
one volt.
V AB

WAB

qo

W q0 V AB
KE (1.6 1019 )C 1V 1.6 1019 J

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Electric Potential Due to Point Charges


The electric potential V at a point in an electric
field is the work done to bring a unit positive
charge from infinity to that point. The electric
potential at infinity is considered zero.
The electric potential due to a point charge can
be derived using calculus.

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There is an electric field around a point charge


+Q. We now want to derive an expression for the
electric potential V at a point P distance r from a
point charge +Q.
Consider a charge +q at the point A distance x
from the point charge +Q.
+Q

A
+q

x
The force on the charge q is:

Qq
1 Qq
F k 2
2
x
4 x

dx

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To bring the charge q from A to B through a


small displacement dx:
Work done, dW = F dx

From the definition of electric potential as the


work done per unit charge to bring a positive
charge from infinity to that point, the electric
potential V at a point P distance r from the point
charge +Q is:
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1
V
q

xr

dW

q
1

xr

Fdx

xr

Qq
k 2 dx
x
r

Q
k
x

Q
k
r
Q

, where k 9.0 10 9 NC 2 m 2
4 r

8.85 101612 Fm1

These plots show the


potential due to
(a) positive and
(b) negative charge.
Using
potentials
instead of fields can
make
solving
problems
much
easier potential is a
scalar
quantity,
whereas the field is a
vector. 17

The electric potential energy U of a point charge q


which is at a distance of r from the point charge
Q is:

U qV
qQ
k
r
qQ

4 r
When calculating the electric potential energy U
of a charge in an electric field, the sign of
charge must be consider
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Example 2
+q

Three point charge of +q, +2q


and -3q are arranged as shown
in the figure. Find the electric
potential energy of the system
of three charges.(-7.59kq2/a)
Solution:

-3q

Distance between the point charges:


+q and +2q

r12 = 2a

+q and -3q

r13 = a

+2q and -3q

r23 = a

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+2q

Solution

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Equipotential Surfaces
An equipotential surface is a surface on which all
points have the same electric potential.
Equipotentials for:
(a) uniform field, (b) point charge, (c) dipole.

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The electric field created by any charge or group of


charges is everywhere perpendicular to the
associated equipotential surfaces and points in the
direction of decreasing potential.
The net electric force does no work on a charge as it
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moves on an equipotential surface.

A
C

From the figures,

VA VB VC
then the work done to bring a test charge from B
to A is given by

q
BA

0
W BA

q
AB

V V
A

No work is done in moving a


charge along an equipotential
surface.
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Capacitance
A capacitor consists of two conductors that are
close but not touching. A capacitor has the ability
to store electric charge.

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Parallel-plate capacitor connected to battery.


Diagram (b) is a circuit diagram.

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When a capacitor is connected to a battery, the


charge on its plates is proportional to the voltage:

Q V
Q CV
Q
C
V

Where: Q = charge
C = capacitance
V = potential difference.

The quantity C is called the capacitance.


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The capacitance, C, of a capacitor is defined


as the ratio of the magnitude of the charge
on either conductor (plate) to the magnitude
of the potential difference between the
conductors (plates)

The capacitance does not depend on the


voltage.

Unit of capacitance: farad (F)


1 F = 1 CV1

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For a parallel-plate capacitor:


The electric field strength
between the plates is then:
V
E
d

d
+
+
+

The capacitance of a parallel-plate


capacitor if the space between the
plates is free space is:
A
C
d

o= permittivity of free space


= 8.85 x 1012 Fm1
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Plate
area A

Example 3

Ans: 0.44pF, 8.84x1010 C

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Solution

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Capacitors in Series and in


Parallel Circuit
Capacitors in series:
+

C1

C2
-Q
+Q

C3
-Q
+Q
Cequ

V1

V2

V3

V
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The charges on all the three capacitors are the same, Q.


The potential difference across the capacitors C1, C2, and
C3 are:
Q
Q
Q

V1

C1

, V2

C2

, V3

C3

The total potential difference is:

Q Q Q
V V1 V2 V3

C1 C2 C3

So

V 1
1
1

Q C1 C2 C3

If C is the equivalent capacitance, then

Q
1 1
1
1
C and

V
C C1 C2 C3

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Capacitors in parallel:
Q1

Q2

Q3

C1

C2

C3

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The charge on each is:


Q1 = C1V, Q2 = C2V, Q3 = C3V
The total charge is
Q = Q 1 + Q 2 + Q3
= C1V + C2V + C3V
= V (C1 + C2 + C3)
If the equivalent capacitance is C, then
C = Q / V and so C = C1 + C2 + C3
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Example 4:
Figure 3 shows five capacitors in a circuit.
Calculate the equivalent capacitance between A
and B terminal.
2 F

3 F
A

1 F

3 F

4 F

Figure 3

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Solution
3 F

2 F

3 F
1 F

1
1
1

CT 1 2 3
1.2 F

B
4 F

3 F
A

CT 2 1 1.2
1.2 F

1 F

2.2 F

B
4 F
3 F
A

2.2F

1
1
1
1

CT 3 2.2 4
CT 0.96 F

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4 F
Figure 3

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Capacitors with Dielectrics


A dielectric is an insulator, and is characterized by
a dielectric constant r.
Capacitance Co of a parallel-plate capacitor with
area of each plate A, and the plates separated in
free space by a distance d is given by:
A
C
d
If the space between the plates of capacitor is filled
with an insulator, also known as a dielectric, the
capacitance C of the capacitor is given by:
r A
C
r C
d
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Dielectric strength
is the maximum
field a dielectric can
experience without
breaking down.
r > 1 , the effect of
having an insulator
is to increase its
capacitance.

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The molecules in a dielectric tend to become


oriented in a way that reduces the external field.

No dielectric

Dielectric inserted

This means that the electric field within the


dielectric is less than it would be in air, allowing
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more charge to be stored for the same
potential.

Example 5:
A parallel-plate capacitor consists of two metal plates
each of area 0.40 m2 and separated by a distance of 0.20
cm.
a) Find the capacitance of the capacitor if the space
between the plates is
i) vacuum
ii) an insulator of dielectric constant 2.3
(Ans : (i) (1.77x10-9F)(ii) (4.07x10-9F)
b) With the insulator between the plates, the insulation
breaks down when the electric field intensity
exceeds 1.8 105 Vcm1. What is the maximum
potential difference that can be apply across the
capacitor? (Ans:3.6x104V)
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Solutions:

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Storage of Electric Energy


A charged capacitor stores electric energy; the
energy stored is equal to the work done to
charge the capacitor.
2

1
1
1Q
2
PE QV CV
2
2
2 C

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The sudden discharge of electric energy can be


harmful or fatal.
Capacitors can retain their charge indefinitely
even when disconnected from a voltage source
Be careful!

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Exercise 1:
As shown in diagram, find the total energy
stored in C1, C2 and C3 when they are fully
charged.

[Answer: 3.6 104 J]


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Ex 1
Two point charges are arranged along the x
axis as shown in the figure. At which of the
following values of x is the electric
potential equal to zero? Note: At infinity,
the electric potential is zero.

Ans: +0.29m
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Ex 2
Three point charges Q, Q, and +3Q are
arranged along a line as shown in the
sketch.
What is the electric potential at the point
P?
Ans: +1.6kQ/R

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Ex 3
If the work required to move a +0.25 C
charge from point A to point B is +175 J,
what is the potential difference between
the two points?
Ans: 700 V

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Ex 4
When two capacitors are connected
in series, the equivalent capacitance
of the combination is 120 F. When
the two are connected in parallel,
however, the equivalent capacitance
is 480 F. What are the capacitances
of the individual capacitors?
Ans: 240 F and 240 F

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Ex 5
How much energy is stored in the
combination of capacitors shown?

Ans: 0.030 J

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