1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Conductors in large electric fields

  1. Mar 13, 2013 #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. Mar 13, 2013 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Offhand I'd say you would ionize the conductor and rip it apart.
  4. Mar 13, 2013 #3
    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. Mar 13, 2013 #4


    User Avatar
    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
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook