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Definition/Summary

Given a vector field ##\vec F(x,y,z)## that has a potential function, how do you find it?

Equations

$$\nabla \phi(x,y,z) = \vec F(x,y,z)$$ $$\nabla \times \vec F(x,y,z) = \vec 0$$

Extended explanation

Suppose we are given a vector field ##\vec F(x,y,z)=\langle f(x,y,z),g(x,y,z),h(x,y,z)\rangle## that has a potential function ##\phi## and we wish to recover the potential function. We know that we must have##\nabla \phi =\vec F##, so ##\phi_x = f,\, \phi_y=g,\, \phi_z = h##. This means we can recover ##\phi## by integrating the components of ##\vec F##.

To look at a particular example, consider $$\vec F =\langle 2xz^3+e^z,-z\sin(yz),3x^2z^2-y\sin(yz)+xe^z\rangle$$Our unknown potential function ##\phi## must satisfy$$\phi_x=2xz^3+e^z,\, \phi_y=-z\sin(yz),\,\phi_z=3x^2z^2-y\sin(yz)+xe^z$$Students often solve this type of problem by taking the anti-partial derivative of each equation:$$\phi = \int 2xz^3+e^z\,\partial x = x^2z^3+xe^z$$ $$\phi = \int -z\sin(yz)\...

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