Potential Definition and 216 Discussions

Potential generally refers to a currently unrealized ability. The term is used in a wide variety of fields, from physics to the social sciences to indicate things that are in a state where they are able to change in ways ranging from the simple release of energy by objects to the realization of abilities in people. The philosopher Aristotle incorporated this concept into his theory of potentiality and actuality, a pair of closely connected principles which he used to analyze motion, causality, ethics, and physiology in his aPhysics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics and De Anima, which is about the human psyche. That which is potential can theoretically be made actual by taking the right action; for example, a boulder on the edge of a cliff has potential to fall that could be actualized by pushing it over the edge. Several languages have a potential mood, a grammatical construction that indicates that something is potential. These include Finnish, Japanese, and Sanskrit.In physics, a potential may refer to the scalar potential or to the vector potential. In either case, it is a field defined in space, from which many important physical properties may be derived. Leading examples are the gravitational potential and the electric potential, from which the motion of gravitating or electrically charged bodies may be obtained. Specific forces have associated potentials, including the Coulomb potential, the van der Waals potential, the Lennard-Jones potential and the Yukawa potential. In electrochemistry there are Galvani potential, Volta potential, electrode potential, and standard electrode potential. In the
thermodynamics, the term potential often refers to thermodynamic potential.

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  1. T

    I Force-potential relationship

    Suppose I have some interaction potential, u(r), between two repelling particles. We will name them particles 1 and 2. I want to find the force vectors F_12 and F_21. Would I be correct in saying that the x-component of F_12 would be given by -du/dx, y-component -du/dy etc? And to find the...
  2. G

    Potential difference metallic sphere

    a) We know that ##Q_1=1,2\, \textrm{nC}## and ##Q_2=6\, \textrm{nC}##. By the TOTAL influence theorem: $$-Q_1=Q_{2i}=-1,2\, \textrm{nC}$$ $$Q_2=Q_{2i}+Q_{2e}\rightarrow Q_{2e}=7,2\, \textrm{nC}$$ b) Electric potential difference crust: $$V_A-V_\infty=$$ How was this potential difference thing...
  3. Mr_Allod

    Quantum Harmonic Oscillator with Additional Potential

    Hello there, I am trying to solve the above and I'm thinking that the solutions will be Hermite polynomials multiplied by a decaying exponential, much like the standard harmonic oscillator problem. The new Hamiltonian would be like so: $$H = - \frac \hbar {2m} \frac {d^2}{dx^2}\psi + \frac...
  4. S

    Finding potential at a point in capacitor

    I tried solving the part (a), and got I =1.82 A for the current value using Kirchoff's law. Next, I want to use Ohm's law to calculate the voltage at point a. Va = IR In this equation, will resistance R correspond to 4.4Ω or 8.8Ω? How do you determine which resistance to use when solving this...
  5. L

    A disconnected capacitor with two dielectrics in parallel

    I considered the capacitor as two capacitors in parallel, so the total capacitance is ##C=C_1+C_2=\frac{\varepsilon_0\varepsilon_1 (A/2)}{d}+\frac{\varepsilon_0\varepsilon_2 (A/2)}{d}=\frac{\varepsilon_0 A}{2d}(\varepsilon_1+\varepsilon_2).## Since the parallel component of the electric field...
  6. L

    Potential due to a finite charged wire

    Considering a reference frame with ##x=0## at the leftmost point I have for the leftmost piece of wire: ##\int_{x=0}^{x=2R}\frac{\lambda dx}{4\pi\varepsilon_0 (3R-x)}=\frac{\lambda ln(3)}{4\pi\varepsilon_0}##. The potential at O due to the semicircular piece of wire at the center is...
  7. patric44

    Potential of a charged ring in terms of Legendre polynomials

    hi guys I am trying to calculate the the potential at any point P due to a charged ring with a radius = a, but my answer didn't match the one on the textbook, I tried by using $$ V = \int\frac{\lambda ad\phi}{|\vec{r}-\vec{r'}|} $$ by evaluating the integral and expanding denominator in terms of...
  8. patric44

    Checking if a function is an equipotential surface

    hi guys I came across that theorem that could be used to check if a surface represented by the function f(x,y,z) = λ could represent an equipotential surface or not, and it states that if this condition holds: $$\frac{\nabla^{2}\;f}{|\vec{\nabla\;f}|^{2}} = \phi(\lambda)$$ then f(x,y,z) could...
  9. F

    "Trick" for a specific potential function defined with an integral

    Hello, To first clarify what I want to know : I read the answer proposed from the solution manual and I understand it. What I want to understand is how they came up with the solution, and if there is a way to get better at this. I have to show that, given a vector field ##F## such that ## F ...
  10. R

    Potential energy of a particle

    Knowing that ##F(x)=-\mathrm{d}V(x)/\mathrm{d}x##, I found that ##F(x)=-2.4x^3+1.35x^2+8x-3##. But it was the only thing I could find. How can I analyze what will be the type of movement with the information presented by the question statement?
  11. RodolfoM

    Electric potential inside a hollow sphere with non-uniform charge

    I tried to find the charge distribution using the given potential but couldn't produce the correct result. Also, Gauss's Law doesn't help, as the electric flux is 0 but we don't have any symmetry. Can someone please shine a light on this? Thanks in advance..
  12. Admiralibr123

    Sign of potential term in Lagrangian mechanics

    I have heard many times that it does not matter where you put the zero to calculate the potential energy and then ##L=T-V##. But mostly what we are doing is taking potential energy negative like in an atom for electron or a mass in gravitational field and then effectively adding it to kinetic...
  13. S

    I Matrix Notation for potential in Schrodinger Equation

    I'm working on the time-dependent Schrodinger equation, and come across something I don't understand regarding notation, which is not specific to TDSE but the Schrodinger formalism in general. Let's say we have a non-trivial potential. There is a stage in the development of the TDSE where we...
  14. Hamiltonian

    Calculating gravitational potential due to a uniform ring tilted at an angle

    I tried finding the potential due to a small element dM of the ring lets say dV, the summation of dV for all the dM's of the ring will give the potential at the point P, but since every element dM of the ring is at a different distance from the point P I am unable to come up with a differential...
  15. R

    I How do you normalize this wave function?

    I have a basic question in elementary quantum mechanics: Consider the Hamiltonian $$H = -\frac{\hbar^2}{2m}\partial^2_x - V_0 \delta(x),$$ where ##\delta(x)## is the Dirac function. The eigen wave functions can have an odd or even parity under inversion. Amongst the even-parity wave functions...
  16. G

    Power of a particle on a wave

    I've marked the right answers. They mainly indicate at power carried by the particles being zero, and here is my doubt- why should it be zero? Shouldn't it have some definite value? I do understand that the kinetic energy is max at the y=0 and potential energy is max at y=A, but I don't know...
  17. G

    Origin of potentials

    I think the right choice is c. I'll pass on my reasoning to you: We can think that if the formula of the potential is V(r)=\dfrac{kq}{r} If r tends to infinity, then V(r)=0. But the correct answer is d).
  18. G

    Potential at a point

    I thought the right choice was d). But when it comes to the solutions, it is b) and I don't understand why. My reasoning would be: the potential at a point is the work that the electric field does to transport a charge from infinity to that point, so if the field is zero, it does no work and...
  19. G

    Electric field and electric potential exercise

    a) \vec{F}=\vec{E}\cdot q \phi =\oint \vec{E}d\vec{S}=\oint \vec{E}d\vec{S}=\underbrace{\oint \vec{E}d\vec{S}}_{\textrm{FACES } \perp}+\underbrace{\oint \vec{E}d\vec{S}}_{\textrm{FACES } \parallel}=0+\oint EdS\cdot \underbrace{\cos 0}_1= E2S \dfrac{Q_{enc}}{\varepsilon_0}=\phi \left...
  20. J

    Interaction energy of two interpenetrating spheres of uniform

    I am trying to calculate the interaction energy of two interpenetrating spheres of uniform charge density. Here is my work: First I want to calculate the electric potential of one sphere as following; $$\Phi(\mathbf{r})=\frac{1}{4 \pi \epsilon_{0}} \int...
  21. S

    Trapping stiffness of optical tweezers

    I read in some articles that the force in optical tweezers can be written as: F=kx, with no minus because the force will increase as the distance increased and the particle moves to the source..., This I can understand, but what I can not understand if I make integral (it is conservative force)...
  22. E

    S-wave phase shift for quantum mechanical scattering

    a.) The potential is a delta function, so ##V \left( r \right) = \frac {\hbar^2} {2\mu} \gamma \delta \left(r-a \right)##, therefore ##V \left( r \right) = \frac {\hbar^2} {2\mu} \gamma ## at ##r=a##, and ##V \left( r \right) = 0## otherwise. I've tried a few different approaches: 1.) In...
  23. G

    Finding the potential across capacitors in capacitor-only circuits

    I tried to attempt it by applying KVL to both the loops. I tried to find a possible charge distribution for the capacitors. I guess this is right. On solving I get: from what I know potential difference between M and N is Q1/C2 but the solution is given as: Where am I wrong?
  24. QuarkDecay

    B Chemical Potential μ in Solids

    There is the equation: μ= Eu +Eg/2 +3/4kβTln(mu/mc) Eg is the band gap, but I don't understand what Eu stands for and how we can calculate it? Could it be the valence band?
  25. moeug1999

    Electric Potential

    I found the potential at A, however I tried doing it with B but it says I have the wrong answer.
  26. K

    Determine the Electrical potential at a given point

    A rod with a circular center in the middle (which causes the rod to change direction by 90 °) has an evenly distributed linear charge density 𝜆 of electrons along the entire rod. Determine the electrical potential of the red dot in the figure below which is at the center of the circular round...
  27. C

    Electrical potential of a thin wire in an E field

    Assume that an infinite metallic plate A lies in the xy-plane, and another infinite metallic plate B is parallel to A and at height z = h. The potential of plate A is 0, and the potential of plate B is constant and equal to V. So, there is a uniform electrostatic field E between plates A and B...
  28. torito_verdejo

    Electrostatics: sign of the potential

    The final result will only differ in its sign, but this is crucial. Having a positively, radially oriented electric field ##\textbf{E}##, I understand that the sign of the integral should be positive (## - (- A) = A##), but it is not! How and why is this the case? A line integral where the...
  29. Elder1994

    The Laplacian of the potential q*exp(-r)/r

    Hello, I have a problem where I'm supposed to calculate the charge distribution ρ. I need to calculate it by applying the Laplacian operator to the potential Θ. The potential is the function: q*exp(-αr)/r I found on the internet that for this type of potentials I cannot just apply the...
  30. K

    Python Visual Python Pendulum

    Hello and thanks in advance for your help. For about a week now, I've been trying to write what should be a simple python program. The idea is first to write a program for a simple harmonic pendulum, then adapt it to a spring pendulum. However, in order to do this, I have to write the simple...
  31. menniandscience

    Retarded and advanced potentials

    "of the two types of solutions which the Maxwell equations yield for the wave equation, the retarded and advanced potentials, only the retarded field seems to have a physical meaning," let's start please with basic (and detailed as possible for the knowledgable layman! p.s-which equation is...
  32. D

    What happens when one of two cocentric spherical shells is grounded?

    Hi! I need help with this problem. When the outer shell is grouded, its potential goes to zero, ##V_2=0## and so does it charge, right? ##-Q=0##. So the field would be the one produced by the inner shell ##E=\frac{Q}{4\pi\epsilon_0 R_1^2}##. When the inner shell is grounded, I think that...
  33. QuarkDecay

    I Morse Potenials Energy eigenvalues

    I know the eigen value of energy in a Morse potential is Evib= ħωo(v+ 1/2) - ħωoxe(v+ 1/2)2 but is this the same for every Morse potential, given that the masses μ of the diatomic molecules are the same? The two potentials are these:
  34. D

    How to find the period of small oscillations given the potential?

    I first found the equilibrium points taking the derivative of the potential. ##U'(x)=U_0 a\sin(ax)##, and the equilibrum is when the derivative is 0, so ##U_0 a\sin(ax)=0## so ##x=0## or ##x=\pi/a##. Taking the second derivative ##U''(x)=U_0a^2 \cos(ax)## I find that ##x=0## is a minimum point...
  35. EEristavi

    Why a DC power supply doesn't have a voltage with respect to ground?

    I see that DC power supply have voltage between it's + & - and its 24V. However, there is no voltage with ground. I don't understand - if device's "point" has some potential, why doesn't it give some voltage with ground (which has ~0 potential) I tried this with phoenix contact...
  36. Aryamaan Thakur

    Electric potential at the edge of a thin charged circular plate

    My question might sound stupid to you but please clear my confusions. I'm taking an circular arc like element on the plate. That arc has a radius of 'r' (AB) and the radius is inclined at an angle 'θ' with OA (∠OAB). The area between arc of radius r and r+dr is dA. dA = 2θr.dr The charge on...
  37. D

    A position of stable equilibrium, and the period of small oscillations

    I tried by taking the derivative of the potential to find the critic points and the I took the second derivative to find which of those points are minimum points. I found that the point is ##x=- a##. I don't understand how to calculate the period, since I haven't seen anything about the harmonic...
  38. Z

    The potential between a cone and a plate

    Homework Statement [/B] There is a conducting cone with angle α placed so that its vertex is normal to an electrically grounded plate, but electrically insulated from the plate and kept at a constant potential V. Find the potential V and the electric field in the region between the cone and the...
  39. K

    System of charges

    Homework Statement Two charges, ##-q_1## and ##q_2## are fixed in the vacuum and separated by a distance ##a##. What should be the velocity ##v## of a particle with mass ##m## and charge ##q##, travelling from an infinitely far point along the line which unites ##q_1## and ##q_2## in order to...
  40. Zack K

    Potential at center of sphere of radius R and charge -Q

    Homework Statement What is the potential at the center of the sphere relative to infinity? The sphere is dielectric with uniform - charge on the surface of the sphere. Homework Equations ##k=\frac {1}{4\pi\epsilon_0}## ##V=\frac {KQ}{r}## The Attempt at a Solution If the distance r=0 it would...
  41. JTC

    A Examples of a Lagrangian

    Assuming generlized variables, q, we have a Lagrangian in mechanics as the kinetic energy, K, minus potential energy, U, with a dependency form such that L(q,dq/dt) = K(q, dq/dt) - U(q) Can someone provide examples of Lagrangians in other disciplines?
  42. B

    Question on the work done while charging up a capacitor.

    So the work done when charging up a capacitor is ##dW=VdQ## However, when we add a charge ##dQ## to the capacitor, ##V## also changes accordingly, so I was wondering why the work done wasn't written as ##dW=VdQ+QdV## (one that also takes into account t he change in ##V##). Thanks in advance.
  43. SebastianRM

    What happens to the Electrical Potential the closer we are to a point charge?

    So I have been wondering: The potential for a point charge at the origin, is described as: (Using the reference point at infinity): V=1/(4πε) * q/r My question is, what happens to this Potential the closer we are to the point charge, and so the closer we would get, the Potential seems to go...
  44. B

    Method of Images Problem

    Homework Statement The z = 0 plane is a grounded conducting surface. A point charge q is at (0,0,a), and charge 4q at (0,-2a,a). Calculate the potential in the region z > 0. Homework Equations V=∑kq/r The Attempt at a Solution [/B] Use the method of images. V1 = kq/r+ + kq/r-...
  45. Pratik Saha

    Gravitational Potential Reference Point

    Can someone please show that calculation of gravitational potential energy at a point R+h from the centre of the earth by choosing the centre of the earth to be at zero potential. Here R is the radius of the earth and h is not very small wrt to R
  46. C

    A few questions regarding Neutral Objects

    1. Homework Statement Hello, I'm learning electricity and I'm having a few conceptual questions regarding the subject ( especially about neutral objects ) which I'm unsure of the answers and I'd be happy if someone could help me: 1. Is the charge density of a neutral object ( doesn't matter...
  47. A

    I Particle in a potential well

    Let's suppose I have a potential well: $$ V(x)= \begin{cases} \infty,\quad x<0\\ -V_0,\quad 0<x<R\\ \frac{\hbar^2g^2}{2mx^2},\quad x\geq R \end{cases} $$ If ##E=\frac{\hbar^2k^2}{2m}## and ##g>>1##, how can I calculate how much time a particle of mass ##m## and energy ##E## will stay inside...
  48. A

    I Finite square well bound states

    Let's suppose I have a finite potential well: $$ V(x)= \begin{cases} \infty,\quad x<0\\ 0,\quad 0<x<a\\ V_o,\quad x>a. \end{cases} $$ I solved the time-independent Schrodinger equation for each region and after applying the continuity conditions of ##\Psi## and its derivative I ended up with...
  49. J

    Potential energy loss related to force applied?

    How can I calculate the loss of potential energy when forces are applied but no motion in the system occurs? Here's an example: Let's say I build a battery operated car that is set to drive forward, but I put it right in front of a wall. It attempts to drive forward, but instead it just pushes...
  50. Safder Aree

    Capacitance of a sphere

    Homework Statement Assume a conducting sphere has a radius of 3400km with an electric field of 100 V/m at it's surface. a) Calculate total charge of sphere. b)Calculate potential at the surface using infinity at reference point c) Calculate capacitance of the sphere using the result of a or b...