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Chapter 4: Electric Field around

Conductors - Capacitance
Materials may be divided into
glass & plastics



Their electrical conductivity differ by factors of 1020

This electrical difference depends on the mobility of the
carriers of charge;, electrons or ions.
In between, there are semiconductors with internediate
conductivities that also change over a wide range, as a
function of temperature.
4.1: Conductors in the Electrostatic Field
We will look at:
electrostatic systems involving conductors
stationary state of charge and electric field after
redistributions of charge have taken place in the
Any insulators present are assumed perfect.
On the other hand, the conductor is a medium that
contains charge elements that are free to move under the
influence of an applied electric field.

In cases where we do not have other forces acting on

the charge carriers (e.g of other forces: those due to a
battery in which a chemical reaction occurs, so that the
charges may even move against the general electric field)
and for homogeneous, isotropic conducting material,
the electric field must be zero.
i.e. within a short time after a steady electric field is
applied, the freely moving charges will re-arrange their
positions so as to annul the effect of the original electric
field .
The macroscopic electric field in the interior of the
conductor will be zero.
The following may be concluded:
in the interior of the isolated conductor, the
macroscopic charge density will be zero.
= E = 0 (anywhere) inside the conductor.

All regions inside the conductor, including all points just

below its surface, must be at the same potential.
A net charge can exist only at the conductor
The external electrostatic field at the conductor
surface is perpendicular to the surface.
Otherwise, forces would be exerted on the charge so as
to make it move laterally (i.e. tangential to the surface).
It follows that the surface of the conductor must be an
equipotential surface of this field.

4.2: System of Charged Conductors

Consider a (static) system of conducting bodies in
otherwise empty space.
1. All charges considered are at the surface of each
conducting body
the only electric fields are those
resulting from the charged equipotential surfaces of each
If the bodies are so close to earth that the field distribution
is affected by the earth, the latter will be considered as one
of the conducting bodies involved & its potential will
generally be assigned the value zero.
2. The charge on each body (conductor) distributes itself
so as to produce a uniform potential over each body.
3. Any distribution of charges which gives the requested
potential distribution (i.e. the required potential on each
conductor) is the ONLY distribution which will do so.
This is known as the uniqueness theorem, which holds for
any static electric field.
It follows that
(a) the charges must give the required equipotential
surfaces having the required values
(b) the potential must satisfy Laplaces equation
everywhere outside of the conductors.
4. The potential V of each body depends only and
linearly on the excess charge Q on each conductor.