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Electrical Conductivity Tensor

  1. Apr 15, 2008 #1
    If I'm given the components of an electrical conductivity tensor, how can I work out the directions in which the current is biggest and the directions in which no current flows?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 16, 2008 #2


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    Find a coordinate system in which the tensor can be written as a diagonal matrix. (Writing the original tensor as a matrix, your coordinate axes will be the eigenvectors of the original matrix, the flow along those axes the eigenvalues.) The flow will be greatest in the direction of the eigenvector corresponding to the largest eigenvalue, 0 in any eigenspace corresponding to 0 eigenvalue.
  4. Apr 16, 2008 #3
    Ok thanks. But if I'm trying to work this out for the matrix

    2 -1 -1
    -1 2 -1
    -1 -1 2

    which has eigenvalues 0, 3, 3.
    The 0 eigenvalue gives (1,1,1) so that's the direction of no flow, but with eigenvalue 3 you can get lots of different eigenvectors so is the flow greatest in all of those directions?
  5. Apr 16, 2008 #4


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    The only eigenvectors corresponding to eigenvalue 3 all satisfy x+ y+ z= 0. That means that there is a 2 dimensional "eigenspace" of covering the plane x+ y+ z= 0. The flow is the same in all directions on that plane.
  6. Nov 21, 2010 #5
    if the electric conductivity tensor is given how can i find the electric field with its related components
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