Does electric potential exist without a test charge?

In summary, electric potential energy is a property of a system of two charges and can be calculated using the formula for potential. The potential at any point in space is the specific energy needed to bring a charge from very far away to that point. It is not the overall energy of the system, but the energy per charge. It is also more common to talk about the potential energy of a particle in the field of the source particle, rather than the two charge system as a whole.
  • #1
etotheipi
Usually for a charge Q we state that for each point in space there exists a potential, and we can calculate this, draw graphs of potential etc.

However, if electric potential energy is a property of a system of two charges, and potential is PE for a 1C test charge, then how can we even define a potential? Is it assumed that the potential at any point in space is the potential energy the system of the source charge and the test charge would have if the test charge were at that point?

Perhaps in a more general sense, is it more common to just talk about the potential energy of a particle in the field of the source particle as opposed to the two charge system?

Edit
I think I figured it out.. sorry for the null thread!
 
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  • #2
etotheipi said:
then how can we even define a potential?
By using the formula for the potential. There, defined.
etotheipi said:
Is it assumed that the potential at any point in space is the potential energy the system of the source charge and the test charge would have if the test charge were at that point?
It is not the energy of the overall system. It is the specific energy (energy per charge) needed to bring a charge from very far away to that point.
 

Related to Does electric potential exist without a test charge?

1. What is electric potential?

Electric potential is a measure of the potential energy per unit charge at a specific point in an electric field. It is a scalar quantity and is measured in volts (V).

2. How is electric potential different from electric field?

Electric potential and electric field are related but different concepts. Electric field is a vector quantity that describes the force exerted on a test charge by an electric field. Electric potential, on the other hand, is a scalar quantity that describes the energy of the field at a specific point.

3. Can electric potential exist without a test charge?

Yes, electric potential can exist without a test charge. Electric potential is a property of the electric field itself and is not dependent on the presence of a test charge. However, the electric potential at a specific point is measured by placing a test charge at that point and observing the work done on the test charge by the electric field.

4. How is electric potential calculated?

Electric potential is calculated by dividing the work done by the electric field on a test charge by the magnitude of the test charge. This gives the electric potential at a specific point in the electric field. Mathematically, it is represented as V = W/q, where V is the electric potential, W is the work done, and q is the test charge.

5. Is electric potential a conservative field?

Yes, electric potential is a conservative field. This means that the work done on a test charge by the electric field only depends on the initial and final positions of the test charge and not on the path taken. This is because electric potential is a scalar quantity and does not have a direction, unlike electric field which is a vector quantity.

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