Conductors in large electric fields

  1. You place a conductor in an electric field. The charges inside the conductor will relocate, to form an opposing electric field which cancels the outside field, making the field inside the conductor zero.

    However, surely there's a limit to how big an opposing field the charges in the conductor can create. My question is, what will happen if you place a conductor in an electric field larger than the conductors maximum opposing inside field?
  2. jcsd
  3. Drakkith

    Staff: Mentor

    Offhand I'd say you would ionize the conductor and rip it apart.
  4. I would guess it not longer behaves as a conductor. Being a conductor means you have free and mobile charges. If your external field has pinned down all your charges then you now have an insulator.
  5. marcusl

    marcusl 2,153
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Right, you get field emission, which is the emission of electrons from the conducting surface. Eventually you could get an arc (lightning bolt).

    No, the bulk metal is still a conductor.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2013
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