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Homework Help: ELECtric Field Problem PLEASE HELP HELP

  1. Feb 24, 2008 #1
    [SOLVED] ELECtric Field Problem PLEASE HELP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HELP!!

    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    Two particles are fixed to an x axis: particle 1 of charge q1 = +2.8*10-8 C at x = 20 cm and particle 2 of charge q2 = -4.50q1 at x = 70 cm. At what coordinate on the axis is the net electric field produced by the particles equal to zero?

    Do not convert to meters. leave the answers in cm. so we are trying to find the x-coordinate.

    i really have no clue where to start.

    Relevant equations

    E= kQ/ R^2
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2008 #2


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    This is similar to the previous problem, and E = kq/r2 for a single charge.

    If one is working with cm, then perhaps one is supposed to use cgs/esu units. One can rewrite the charges in esu.

    Also, since one is looking for the location of E = 0, the location is not between the charges, since the field points outward from the + charge and inward to the negative charge, so on must find the position where the fields of both charges are equal and opposite.
  4. Feb 24, 2008 #3

    Okay i sort of understand what you are saying.
    how about this-- i will convert everything to meters but at the end of the problem i will convert it back to cm once i get my answer. that way i won't have to change all my units. okay so zer is closer to Q1. BUT i am not so sure what to do. do i set it like this: E=kq / r^2 = 0 since the net electric field produced by the particles has to equal to zero?
  5. Feb 24, 2008 #4
    The net electric field is the sum of the individual electric fields.
  6. Feb 24, 2008 #5


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    Well if one writes the algebraic equation for the electric field/force, then charges will cancel and one will have an algebraic equation with distance as a variable.

    On the x-axis, on which a positive and negative charge are situated, the electric field points from the positive to negative charge between the charges. The field points in the opposite direction on the other side (outside) of either charge.

    Keep in mind q2 = -4.50 q1, so q2 is negative, but with a magnitude 4.5 times that of q1. What does that tell one about the strength of the field near each charge, i.e. which field is stronger? What is the implication for the location where E = 0?
  7. Feb 24, 2008 #6
    Thank you for answering back, but that made things alot more confusing. i am sorry, i really just don't understand. could you put it in simpler terms without being as formal. i think that would help me understand the question and how to work the problem.
  8. Feb 24, 2008 #7
    the field of Q2 is stronger so 0 is being pulled closer to Q2 more than q1 or basically its closer to q2, but i dont know what i can do with this information.
  9. Feb 24, 2008 #8
    Write out the net electric field. As I said before, it's the sum of the two individual fields from the two charges. But, what is the distance r? Imagine, at a distance x from the axis, you have the location you're testing at. So, the distance from the test location to charge q1 is (x - 20) cm. Do the same for the other one.

    You will get two solutions, one of which is invalid (which you have to figure out from the charge configuration). What I do is, draw arrows at the three different intervals of where the charge could possibly be. So to the left of q1 and q2, q1's electric field points left, q2's points right. In the middle, they point in the same direction. Can they possibly sum to zero there? Do the same analysis for the right too. Then you will be able to eliminate one of the solutions from the quadratic.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2008
  10. Feb 24, 2008 #9
    Okay that helps somewhat, but i am still very confused.

    this is what i got so far:
    E=k (2.8*10-8 C) / (x-.20 meters)
    E = k (-4.50* 2.8e-8) / (x-.70meters)
  11. Feb 24, 2008 #10
    First, Thanks again, you are really helpful!
    Second, are those equations right?
    Thrid, what should i do after that?
  12. Feb 24, 2008 #11
    Keep in mind that the denominator should be squared.

    Those are the individual electric fields from the two charges. The net electric field is the sum of them. And this net electric field equals zero. Which is pretty much what I said above.
  13. Feb 24, 2008 #12
    Oh right, i forgot about the squaring part, thanks!
    ooo okay so 0= [k (2.8*10-8 C) / (x-.20 meters)^2] + [k (-4.50* 2.8e-8) / (x-.70meters)^2]

    so i solve for x right?
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2008
  14. Feb 24, 2008 #13
  15. Feb 24, 2008 #14
    okay hold on, i'll tell you what i got...
  16. Feb 24, 2008 #15
    i tried taking the square root of everything but i can't take the square root of a negative number.

    okay i know this is simple algebra but how do i solve for x, or in other words isolate x?
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2008
  17. Feb 24, 2008 #16
    It's a quadratic. Move everything to one side, and then you should only have three terms, the x^2, x and constant term. Then use the quadratic formula.
  18. Feb 24, 2008 #17
    whoa, wait a minute. for some reason im not getting three terms. this is what i have so far:

    0= [251.72 / (x-.2)^2] + [-1132.74 / (x-.7)^2]

    so what do you suggest i do after this step?
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2008
  19. Feb 24, 2008 #18
    Expand the squared terms.
  20. Feb 24, 2008 #19
    okay i did and this is what i got, but i still only have two terms:
    0= [251.72 / (x^2-0.4x+.04)] + [-1132.74 / (x^2-1.4x+.49)]
  21. Feb 24, 2008 #20
    If it's this:
    0= [251.72 / (x-.2)^2] + [-1132.74 / (x-.7)^2]
    [251.72 / (x-.2)^2] = [1132.74 / (x-.7)^2].

    don't expand (you would be in big mess)!
    take square-root of both sides
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