Electric Potential: Exploring Difference & Low Potential

In summary, the conversation is about struggling to understand the concepts of electric potential and potential difference, specifically in a scenario involving negatively and positively charged plates and an electron. The confusion lies in how an electron can have a low electric potential at a point where its potential energy is the highest. The explanation is that electric potential is a property of the location, not the object itself, and the electric potential energy is determined by the charge and potential at that location.
  • #1
Lately I have been struggling with the concepts of electric potential and potential difference.

Here is a paraphrase of a scenario I am having trouble understanding. Suppose there is a negatively charged plate across from a positively charged plate. The electric field flows left to right, indicating that the negatively charged plate is on the right.

Now, suppose an electron is placed next to the negatively charged plate. I understand that here it is all potential energy, yet somehow its electric potential is at its smallest at this point. How does a negatively charged object move naturally from a low potential to a high potential? How can an electron, as described, have a low electric potential at a point where its potential energy is the highest?


I would appreciate an explanation, thank you very much

Oscar
 
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  • #2
The electron does not "have" electric potential. Electric potential is a property of the location at which the electron is located, and exists regardless of whether the electron is there or not. (Assuming that the charged plates that create the potential are still there, of course.)

The electric potential energy of a charge Q, placed at at a location that has electric potential V, is PE = QV. You have to take into account the + or - signs of both Q and V.
 
  • #3
, thank you for reaching out with your questions about electric potential and potential difference. I understand how these concepts can be confusing and I am happy to provide some clarification for you.

First, let's define electric potential and potential difference. Electric potential is a measure of the electric potential energy per unit charge at a specific point in an electric field. In simpler terms, it is the amount of work needed to move a unit charge from one point to another in an electric field. Potential difference, on the other hand, is the difference in electric potential between two points in an electric field.

In the scenario you described, the negatively charged plate has a higher electric potential compared to the positively charged plate. This means that if a unit charge were to move from the positive plate to the negative plate, it would release energy and decrease in potential energy. On the other hand, if a unit charge were to move from the negative plate to the positive plate, it would require energy and increase in potential energy.

Now, let's consider the electron placed next to the negatively charged plate. As you correctly stated, at this point, the electron has all potential energy and its electric potential is at its lowest. This is because the electron is already at the negatively charged plate, which has the highest electric potential. In order for the electron to move from this point to the positively charged plate, it would need to gain energy and increase in potential energy. This movement from low potential to high potential is due to the electric force acting on the electron, which is directed from higher potential to lower potential.

I hope this explanation helps to clarify your understanding of electric potential and potential difference. It is important to remember that electric potential is a measure of potential energy per unit charge, and potential difference is the difference in electric potential between two points. If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to reach out. Keep exploring and learning about these concepts, and I am sure you will gain a deeper understanding. Best of luck!
 

What is electric potential?

Electric potential is the amount of work needed to move a unit of positive charge from one point to another against an electric field. It is measured in volts (V).

How is electric potential different from electric field?

Electric field is a measure of the force experienced by a unit of charge at a given point, while electric potential is a measure of the energy per unit of charge at a given point. Electric potential is related to electric field by the equation E = -∇V, where E is the electric field, V is the electric potential, and ∇ is the gradient operator.

What is the difference between high and low electric potential?

High electric potential means that there is a greater amount of energy per unit of charge at a given point, while low electric potential means that there is a lower amount of energy per unit of charge at a given point. This difference in electric potential is what drives the movement of charges in an electric circuit.

How is electric potential measured?

Electric potential is measured using a device called a voltmeter, which is connected in parallel to the circuit or component being measured. The voltmeter measures the potential difference between two points in the circuit, which is then used to calculate the electric potential at those points.

Why is it important to understand electric potential?

Understanding electric potential is important for a variety of reasons. It allows us to understand the behavior of electric circuits and how different components affect the flow of electricity. It is also crucial in fields such as electronics, where the manipulation of electric potential is used to control the flow of current and create desired effects.

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