# How to get maximum electrostatic force?

## Homework Statement

Let's take two spheres that are somewhat nearby. On one sphere, sphere A, there is Q units of charge. Now, we take some little bit of charge q off of sphere A, and put it on sphere B. What should the ratio q/Q be if we want the electrostatic force between the spheres to be a maximum?

F = K Q q / r2

## The Attempt at a Solution

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For this question, I just took plotted numbers and found that the charge q has to be half of Q in order to have the greatest electrostatic force between the spheres. So the ratio of q/Q = 1/2

How would one do this problem without plotting numbers?

BvU
Homework Helper
Hi catch,

Do you know what the criteria are for the maximum of a function of one variable ? If so, all you need to do is write F as a function of one variable !

Hi catch,

Do you know what the criteria are for the maximum of a function of one variable ? If so, all you need to do is write F as a function of one variable !
unfortunately, I don't. do you mean like global maximum/minimums of a function?

BvU
Homework Helper
I mean like if f(x) has a maximum in x0, then what about df/dx at x = x0

I mean like if f(x) has a maximum in x0, then what about df/dx at x = x0
oh, so if I picture a graph, the highest point is where the slope is 0.
and to get the slope, we need the derivative.

BvU
Homework Helper
Yessss! Now, what derivative ? f is easy: F. But what is a candidate for the variable x ?

Yessss! Now, what derivative ? f is easy: F. But what is a candidate for the variable x ?
q or Q?

BvU
Homework Helper
Well, that's a no-brainer: Q is a number, so it must be q ! And now it's time to realize that the Q in the problem statement is not the Q in the relevant equation ! But you knew that, right ?

• catch22
Well, that's a no-brainer: Q is a number, so it must be q ! And now it's time to realize that the Q in the problem statement is not the Q in the relevant equation ! But you knew that, right ?
whoops, for a second I thought Q was the charge of the sphere that was taking in q.

BvU
Homework Helper
So what is now the one-variable function you are going to differentiate with respect to ##q## ?

So what is now the one-variable function you are going to differentiate with respect to ##q## ?
F = k q Q / r^2

F = k q Q / r^2
whoops, should be F = k (Q-q)(q) / r^2

BvU
Homework Helper
Agreed. Does it work out OK now ?

Agreed. Does it work out OK now ?
hmm, my q turned into a 1.
dF / dq = K(Q-1) / r^2 = 0

Q = 1

doesn't seem right. BvU
Homework Helper
Ah ! So not the same as when looking at the plotted figure ?
Or perhaps a second try differentiating F = some constant times ( Qq - q2 ) ?

Ah ! So not the same as when looking at the plotted figure ?
Or perhaps a second try differentiating F = some constant times ( Qq - q2 ) ?
where did ( Qq - q2 ) come from?

BvU
Homework Helper
F = k (Q-q)(q) / r^2
!

!
oh, we shouldn't have factored out the q?

anyways, k (Q-2q)/ r^2 = 0

Q - 2q = 0

2q = Q

q/Q = 1/2

BvU
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