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E field for an semi-infinite sheet of charge

  1. Apr 11, 2013 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    We have a sheet of charge, which is infinite in the x direction and has width d in the y direction.
    Find E field at a height h above the center line of the sheet. The sheet has λs surface charge density.

    My attempt:

    We know that the E field for an infinite wire is λl / 2πrε in the radial direction.
    We treat the semi-infinite sheet as if it was composed of infinite wires with width dy and λl = λs dy


    dE for an infinite wire = (λs dy) / (2πrε) in r direction, where r is a unit vector from the wire to the observation point.
    For each infinite wire, vector r = -y y + h z where y and z are the unit vectors.
    Therefore, r = ( -y y + h z ) / sqrt(y2 + h2)
    dE = [(λs dy) / (2πr2ε)] ( -y y + h z )

    = [(λs dy) / (2πε(y2 + h2)] ( -y y + h z )

    From symetry reasons I know that the E field wield be in the z direction, so I discard the y part:

    dE = [(λs dy) / (2πε(y2 + h2)] (h z )

    I integrate [(λs dy) / (2πε(y2 + h2)] (h z ) from y = -d/2 to d/2

    = (λs h z) / (2πε) integral of (dy / y2 + h2)

    completing the integration I get:

    s h z) / (πε) ) atan(d/2h)

    but the h factor shouldn't be there because it shouldn't depend on the height of the observation point.

    Where is the mistake?

    (I have done it another way here https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=4279144&postcount=7 but I don't see where is the mistake)
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 11, 2013 #2


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    Something went wrong in there. Pls post those steps in detail.
  4. Apr 11, 2013 #3


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    The h factor only goes away in the case of an infinite plane (infinite length and infinite width). What you have is a "wide" wire of infinite length, and as h ->∞, the result approaches that of a field from an "thin" infinite wire.
  5. Apr 11, 2013 #4


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    True, but the fact remains that factor h should not be there. It gives the wrong limit as h tends to infinity.
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