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EXPERIMENT 24

ELECTRIC EQUIPOTENTIALS & FIELDS

I. Introduction
The object of this experiment is to identify the equipotentials and the associated electric
fields arising from different configurations of charges.

Electric charges set up a field around them, which we call the electric field, denoted by and
which has magnitude and direction. It is a vector. The electric field is defined as the force per
unit charge on a charged object that is placed in the field. That is:

 F
E (1)
q

where is the force on the charge q arising from a charge distribution. The charge is in
Coulombs and the force is in Newtons. The direction of the field is defined by the direction in
which a unit positive charge moves if placed at that point. The magnitude of the electric field,
called the electric field strength, is ∣F/q∣. Alternately, we may describe the field in terms of the
electric potential, V, a scalar, which we define as the work which must be done to bring a unit
positive charge to that point from infinity to some point

r
 
V r    E d r (2)

However, in practice, it is more common to work with the electric potential difference
between two positions in the field so that we have

W2  W1 2
 
r

V  r2   V  r1      E C dr         (3)
q r1

where the second term is the work done to move a charge q from point to point in the field.
The unit of electric potential is the volt: 1 volt = 1 joule/l coulomb.

For a given charged body or set of bodies, there are usually several points in the region of the
bodies which are at the same electric potential. The locus of these points in three dimensions is
an equipotential surface. In two dimensions it is an equipotential line. That is, V is constant at
any point on the surface or line. For example, around a single charge in space, Fig. Figure 1: The
equipotential in three dimensions (Fig. 1a) arising from a point charge at the origin. Fig 1.b is the
equipotential in a plane that cuts the sphere in the y-z-plane., the equipotential is a sphere. If the
equipotential is sought in the yz-plane, it is a circle.

Figure 1: The equipotential in three dimensions (Fig. 1a) arising from a point charge at
the origin. Fig 1.b is the equipotential in a plane that cuts the sphere in the y-z-plane.

The equipotential is a concentric spherical shell because the work


required to bring a unit positive charge from infinity to a distance
r from the charge q is the same regardless of the path from
infinity to that point.

The electric field may be written in terms of the electric potential,

̂ (2)

II. Equipment and Procedure


A. Equipment
Figure 2: Equipotentials and
Potential source, digital Voltmeter, semiconducting Corresponding Electric Fields.
carbon paper, metallic ink, and cork surface.
B. Procedure

1. Place the black paper with the conducting surfaces on the cork board.
Stick a pin firmly into each of the conducting surfaces.

2 Attach one of the leads from the potential source to one of the pins, the
other lead to the other pin and set the potential to that assigned by the
instructor.

3. Attach the ground lead of the voltmeter to the lower potential. Use the
other lead to probe the points on the carbon paper for the potential values
assigned by the instructor. Make sure to not puncture the black paper.
Punctures alter the field. Lightly identify these points with a pencil and
label the potential.

4. Place a piece of tracing paper over a plain white sheet under the
conducting sheet and join the points on the carbon paper with a smooth
curve. Trace the shape of the equipotentials on the conducting surface.
The tracing should go through to the white paper (check that it does so).

5. Transfer the equipotentials using carbon paper to white paper. Label the
equipotentials on the white paper with their potential voltages.

6. Draw in four or five electric field lines based on the equipotential lines,
remember the electric field lines cross the equipotential lines at right
angles.

7. Repeat the above steps for other configurations provided by the instructor.

III. Data
Equipotentials (conducting paper).

IV. Results
1. At several points on each equipotential draw small arrows perpendicular to the
equipotential.

2. Starting at the conducting surface at the higher potential to the lowest potential,
draw smooth curves (the instructor will set the number of curves) through the
electric field arrows using the direction of the arrows to generate the direction of
the curve. These curves are the electric field lines for the given charge
distribution.

3. Make sure the electric field lines do not cross and are at right angles to the electric
potential lines. Label each electric field line clearly indicating its direction at a
minimum of three locations. Label the equipotential lines with their voltages.

4. Hand in the traces of the equipotentials (carbon/white paper) and the derived
electric field lines with the report.

V. Conclusion and Discussion


 What is the charge distribution for each of the plots that you did? A sketch may
help with this answer.
 Contrast the electric field lines and the equipotentials for the plots you took. How
are they different? A sketch, maybe the same one, may help with this answer.