Properties of Equipotential surface in uniform field

We have learned the electric Potential and potential energy in another article. Now, in this article, we are going to discuss the equipotential surface and its properties. Here we will consider that the equipotential surface is in a uniform electric field. In a uniform electric field, the strength of the field is equal at every point and electric field lines are straight and parallel lines.

What is an equipotential surface?

A surface will be called an equipotential surface if the electrostatic potential at every point on the surface is equal. All real or imaginary surfaces satisfying this property are equipotential surfaces.

Examples of Equipotential surfaces

There are some examples of equipotential surfaces –

  1. The surface of a charged sphere is an equipotential surface.
  2. Any imaginary spherical surface around a point charge is an equipotential surface.
  3. All the circular plane surfaces perpendicular to an electric dipole and at the middle of the dipole are equipotential surfaces.

Properties of Equipotential surface

Properties of an equipotential surface are –

  1. The electric potential at every point on an equipotential surface is equal.
  2. No work is to be done to move an electric charge from one point to another point on an equipotential surface. Because the potential difference between the points is zero.
  3. Electric field lines intersect equipotential surfaces perpendicularly. That means a uniform electric field is also perpendicular to the equipotential surface.
  4. Any two equipotential surfaces cannot intersect each other.
  5. Surfaces of all the charged conductors are equipotential surfaces.

Equipotential surfaces for a Point Charge

Equipotential surfaces for a point charge
Equipotential surfaces for a point charge

All equipotential surfaces around a point charge are the spherical surfaces of different radii. For each surface the potential is different , but every points on a particular spherical surface have equal potential.

Equipotential surfaces for uniform electric field

equipotential surfaces for uniform electric field
equipotential surfaces for uniform electric field

All equipotential surfaces in a uniform electric field are square or rectangular shaped surfaces that are perpendicular to the electric field lines or the direction of electric field.

Equipotential surface of an electric dipole

For an electric dipole, the equipotential surfaces are the circular planes at the center of dipole that are perpendicular to the dipole. Imagine a circular disc perpendicular to the dipole at the middle of the dipole. Now, the circular plane at the middle of the dipole has zero electric potential at every point on it. So, this circular plane is an equipotential surface.

Equipotential surface of an electric dipole
Equipotential surface of an electric dipole

One can imagine an infinite number of co-centric circular planes or discs at the middle of the dipole. All these plane surfaces are equipotential surfaces.

Proof that electric field lines intersect equipotential surfaces perpendicularly

The tangent at any point on the electric field line gives the direction of the electric field at that point. So, in the uniform electric field, the direction of the field line is the direction of the electric field.

Now, let the electric field (E) intersects or crosses an equipotential surface with an angle \small \theta. Then the tangential component of electric field i.e. the component of the electric field along the surface is Ecos\small \theta.

Diagram to prove that equipotential surfaces are perpendicular to electric field
Diagram to prove that equipotential surfaces are perpendicular to electric field

Now, we want to move a charge by a small distance r on the equipotential surface. The work done in moving the charge on the equipotential surface is zero.

So, work done, W=Ecos\small \theta r =0

Now, E and r are non-zero terms. Then, Cos\small \theta=0

or, \small \theta=90 degree

Thus, the electric field is perpendicular to the equipotential surface. Therefore, electric field lines cross the equipotential surface perpendicularly.

Summary

An equipotential surface is a real or imaginary surface having equal electric potential at every point on it. Electric field lines intersect equipotential surfaces perpendicularly in a uniform electric field. That means equipotential surfaces are perpendicular to the uniform electric field. There is no potential difference between any two points on the equipotential surface. So, no work is to be done to move a charge from one point to another point on the equipotential surface. The surface of a charged conductor is an equipotential surface.

This is all from this article. If you have any doubt on this topic you can ask me in the comment section.

Thank you!

Related Posts:

  1. Electric Potential difference and potential Energy
  2. Electric field and field Intensity
  3. Properties and drawing of electric field lines
  4. Gauss’s law of electrostatics
  5. Capacitance of different type capacitors

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