1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The Terms Potential & Potential Difference

  1. Feb 11, 2013 #1
    So I'm supposed to read Chapter 34 (Electric Current) in the next couple of days. I'm sure I'll have more questions about it but one question I have right now is what does the book mean by the term potential and potential difference. My teacher briefly explained it but I couldn't stay awake this morning so could I have some help?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 12, 2013 #2

    Simon Bridge

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    2016 Award

    What is the book - the reference is meaningless without this information.
    The book should have defined the terms. Reread those bits.

    For electric circuits:
    the potential difference is the voltage between two places in the circuit.
    the potential is the potential difference between some place in the circuit and some standard reference point like the ground or the negative terminal of the power supply.
    the potential energy of a charge is qV - the amount of charge times the potential where it is.
    when a charge falls through a potential difference ΔV, it gains kinetic energy qΔV.
     
  4. Feb 12, 2013 #3
    Thanks!
     
  5. Feb 12, 2013 #4

    Simon Bridge

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    2016 Award

    Just to cement it: compare with gravity close to the Earth's surface:

    potential difference between two heights, h1 and h2 would be g(h2 - h1)
    potential at height h is gh (the standard reference point being the ground)
    potential energy of mass m at height h is mgh
    a mass m falling though distance Δh gains kinetic energy mgΔh
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook