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Electric field and potential of a charged disc

  1. Jan 21, 2015 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    Calculate the electric field on axis of a disc that has charge +q on one half and -q on the other.

    Describe the behavior of the potential along the same axis at points far from the disc.

    2. Relevant equations


    3. The attempt at a solution
    My intuition says its zero, as for every contribution to E from one part there will be one at the samne distant but of opposite sign (in both the horizontal and vertical components) that will cancel it. I've done the math and I've also got zero.

    The problem is that I'm later asked to describe the behavior of the potential on the disc, and it feels weird that the answer is simply 0.

    Please tell me if my intuition is right and if not Ill post my math to see where have I had a mistake.

    Thank you for reading.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 21, 2015 #2

    TSny

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    If the setup is as shown below, then E would not be zero on the axis.
     

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  4. Jan 21, 2015 #3
    Ok, I was not enterely sure my intuition, but my math told me the same
    ##\vec E(\vec r) = k \int \frac{dq}{R^3} \vec R = k \int \frac{\sigma' dS}{\rho ^2 +z^2) ^{3/2}} \vec{r}= k \int \frac{\sigma' \rho d \rho d\theta}{\rho ^2 +z^2) ^{3/2}} (x, y, z) ##


    We separate the integral in two, one from ##\theta = 0## to ##\theta = \pi## , where ##\sigma' = +\sigma ## and one from ##\theta = \pi## to ##\theta = 2\pi## , where ##\sigma' = -\sigma ##.
    ## k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{0}^{\pi} d\theta \frac{\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z ^2)^{3/2}}\vec{r} + k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{\pi}^{2\pi} d\theta \frac{-\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z ^2)^{3/2}}\vec{r}##

    Now we write ## \vec{r}## as ##(x\vec{i}+z\vec{k})##, since if we set the line where the charge changes to lie in the y axis then the contributions from y < 0 will cancel those from y > 0.
    ## k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{0}^{\pi} d\theta \frac{\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z ^2)^{3/2}}(x\vec{i}+z\vec{k}) + k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{\pi}^{2\pi} d\theta \frac{-\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z ^2)^{3/2}}(x\vec{i}+z\vec{k})##

    ##
    k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{0}^{\pi} d\theta \frac{\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z ^2)^{3/2}} x\vec{i} +
    k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{0}^{\pi} d\theta \frac{\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z ^2)^{3/2}} z\vec{k} +
    k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{\pi}^{2\pi} d\theta \frac{-\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z ^2)^{3/2}} x\vec{i}+
    k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{\pi}^{2\pi} d\theta \frac{-\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z^2)^{3/2}} z\vec{k}
    ##

    Changing ##x## for ##\rho cos \theta ##:
    ##
    k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{0}^{\pi} d\theta \frac{\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z ^2)^{3/2}} \rho cos \theta\vec{i} +
    k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{0}^{\pi} d\theta \frac{\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z ^2)^{3/2}} z\vec{k} +
    k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{\pi}^{2\pi} d\theta \frac{-\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z ^2)^{3/2}} \rho cos \theta \vec{i}+
    k \int_{0}^{a} d\rho \int_{\pi}^{2\pi} d\theta \frac{-\sigma\rho }{(\rho ^2 + z^2)^{3/2}} z\vec{k}
    ##
    But now, if we integrate for ##\theta## we get 0!
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2015
  5. Jan 21, 2015 #4

    BvU

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    May I remind you that you want to calculate ##\vec E\;(\vec r)##, not ##E(\vec r)##.
    Since you only want to know it on the axis, this may well reduce to ##\vec E(z)##, but it's still a vector: it has 3 components, which may be zero or not.
     
  6. Jan 21, 2015 #5
    Yes, I see the mistake in my intuition now. I still get zero when I do the math, though.
     
  7. Jan 21, 2015 #6

    TSny

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    It looks like you have it set up correctly. How are you getting the x-component integrations to be zero?
     
  8. Jan 21, 2015 #7
    When I integrate the ## cos \theta ## I get ## sin \theta##, which evaluated from 0 to ##\pi## and from ##2\pi## to ##2\pi## gives zero.
     
  9. Jan 21, 2015 #8

    BvU

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    Even though the ##\sigma## changes sign ?

    :)
     
  10. Jan 21, 2015 #9

    TSny

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    Earlier you were integrating sinθ rather than cosθ. If you are now integrating cosθ, what should be the limits of integration for θ?
     
  11. Jan 21, 2015 #10
    Yeah sorry, I miscopied that part and edited it later. It should be from 0 to ##\pi## and from ##\pi## to ##2\pi##, so, if I'm not wrong
    ## \int_{0}^{\pi}d\theta cos\theta = [sin \theta ]_{0}^{\pi} = [sin \pi - sin 0] = 0##
    ##\int_{\pi}^{2\pi}d\theta cos\theta = [sin \theta ]_{\pi}^{2\pi} = [sin 2\pi - sin \pi] = 0
    ##
     
  12. Jan 21, 2015 #11
    I placed the dividing line along the y axis, so i think sigma doesn't change as you go from y<0 to y>0

    Thank you, though :-)
     
  13. Jan 21, 2015 #12

    TSny

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    OK, I think we're getting to the problem. I don't believe your limits of integration are correct. You have x = ρ cosθ. If θ varies from 0 to π, will x vary over the correct domain?
     
  14. Jan 21, 2015 #13

    BvU

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    I see. So did TS and we all agree that a clear drawing could have prevented this mistake. Something to remember for next time.

     
  15. Jan 21, 2015 #14
    I thought the written comment would be enough. My apologies. I'll ad one now.

    Yes, that was it. Infinite thanks for you sir! The way I had done it my ##\theta## was sweeping from a positive quarter and a negative quarter on each integral.

    Ok. so my new approach is like this:
    https://photos-5.dropbox.com/t/2/AAChv5_j_8NbxAWSbmVsD57BADEhas7c2KOzcASEDJWhPw/12/28182931/png/1024x768/3/1421877600/0/2/disc.png/CJOTuA0gAyACIAEoAigB/vRUpN25j73rui7xiAEK6rt3FaIO9P7Tf705qjtnWPOY [Broken]

    Now the vector component that will get canceled is x, the ##y## is ##\rho sin\theta ##, which doesn't cancel when integrating, and I get an electric field in the direction of y. I have no way of checking that it is the right solution, but if there's any mistake it will be minor, I suppose.

    Thank you all for your time. Its been a while since my last time here, where has the "Thank" buttons gone?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  16. Jan 21, 2015 #15

    BvU

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    Nice picture. This way ##\theta## bounds make good sense. (Confession: I had this picture in mind from the choice of bounds; didn't look all that closely to the expressions. Goes to show how brainwashed one is after so many years...).

    Anyway, the buttons are now more in the facebook spirit.

    And you do have a kind of check: the charge distribution has dipole character, so the field should have that too. Nice feature of the exercise: they ask for that in the second part.
     
  17. Jan 22, 2015 #16
    I have a similar problem in the second part:
    ## \phi(\vec r) = k \int \frac{dq}{R} = k \int \frac{\sigma ' dS}{R} = k \int \frac{\sigma' \rho }{R}d\rho d\theta = ##
    ## k \int _{0} ^{a} d\rho \int _{0} ^{\pi} d\theta \frac{\sigma \rho}{(\rho^2 + z^2)^{1/2}}- k \int _{0} ^{a} d\rho \int _{\pi} ^{2\pi} d\theta \frac{\sigma \rho}{(\rho^2 + z^2)^{1/2}} = ##
    ## k \int _{0} ^{a} d\rho \frac{\sigma \rho}{(\rho^2 + z^2)^{1/2}}[\theta]_{0} ^{\pi}- k \int _{0} ^{a} d\rho \int _{\pi} ^{2\pi} d\theta \frac{\sigma \rho}{(\rho^2 + z^2)^{1/2}}[\theta]_{\pi} ^{2\pi} = ##
    ## k \int _{0} ^{a} d\rho \frac{\sigma \rho}{(\rho^2 + z^2)^{1/2}}[\pi]- k \int _{0} ^{a} d\rho \int _{\pi} ^{2\pi} d\theta \frac{\sigma \rho}{(\rho^2 + z^2)^{1/2}}[\pi] = 0##

    What am I missing now?
     
  18. Jan 22, 2015 #17

    BvU

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    What do you expect the potential to be ?
     
  19. Jan 22, 2015 #18

    BvU

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    The E field is more interesting to inspect. It should be similar to this for z >> R . Gives you a chance to compare a/R to what you expect for the center of gravity (cq charge) of a half-disc
     
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