Can Zero Potential be Defined at Any Point in Electric Potential?

In summary, the conversation discusses the possibility of defining electric potential to be zero at a specific location, as opposed to infinity, and the implications of such a choice. It is mentioned that this is a convention and not a strict rule, and that choosing a different reference point may yield different numerical answers. However, it is important to avoid defining the reference potential at the same location as a point charge, as this would result in an undefined or nonsensical answer.
  • #1
fredrogers3
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Homework Statement



My question is one of clarification about electric potential.

Homework Equations


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The Attempt at a Solution


I understand that when electric potential is defined at infinity to be zero for a series of point charges, the potential is simply kq/r. My question is is it possible to define zero to be at the origin, and if so what would the new expression be. It would seem that the integral would yield a 1/0 term which would be undefined.
 
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  • #2
Yes, you can define the potential to be 0 at any place you want, assuming that there is not a point charge at that particular location.

Electric potential always assumes potential difference, meaning that the potential at one point is always in reference to some other point.

Assigning 0 Volts at infinity (meaning infinity is the reference potential) is merely a convention, not a hard and fast rule.

If you choose some other place besides infinity as the 0 potential, you might get different numerical answers to the particular problem than the answers your textbook gives. But it's still valid for you to do that for your own purposes, as long as you are self consistent.

But as you've implied, don't define the reference potential at the very location where a point charge resides. You'll get a nonsensical answer.

But that's really no different from the situation where you define infinity as the location of 0 V and then try to find the potential at the very location where a point charge resides. In that situation you'll also get a nonsensical answer.
 

1. What is electric potential?

Electric potential is the amount of electric potential energy per unit charge that a point in an electric field possesses. It is a scalar quantity that is used to describe the potential energy of a charged particle at a specific point in an electric field.

2. How is electric potential different from electric potential energy?

Electric potential is the potential energy per unit charge, while electric potential energy is the total potential energy of a charged particle in an electric field. In other words, electric potential is a measure of the intensity of an electric field, while electric potential energy is a measure of the total energy stored in that field.

3. What is the unit of electric potential?

The unit of electric potential is volts (V), which is equivalent to joules per coulomb (J/C).

4. How is electric potential related to electric field?

Electric potential and electric field are closely related. The electric field is the force per unit charge experienced by a charged particle, while electric potential is the potential energy per unit charge at a specific point in that field. The electric field is the negative gradient of electric potential, meaning that it is the rate of change of electric potential with respect to distance.

5. What is the difference between electric potential and potential difference?

Electric potential is a measure of the potential energy per unit charge at a specific point in an electric field, while potential difference is the difference in electric potential between two points in an electric field. In other words, potential difference is a comparison between the electric potential at two different points, while electric potential is a measure of the electric potential at a single point.

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