Unreasonable answer for acceleration of an electron in field

  • #1
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Homework Statement



Hello PF!

Got a two-part question involving calculating the electric force on a electron when placed in an electric field of 0.75N/C to the right, and the acceleration of said electron. Our values are E=0.75N/C, q=-1.6e^-19, m=9.1e^-31 (charge and mass of electron)

Homework Equations



For the force, F=Eq, for the acceleration, ma=Eq --> a=Eq/m

The Attempt at a Solution



Plugging numbers in gives a seemingly unreasonably small force (FE=1.2e^-19N) and unreasonably large acceleration (a=1.3e^11m/s^2). Is the value of the electrical field strength given too high? It seems so, as the acceleration is ~400x the speed of light. In another example we were given, E=1.1e^-8N/C, which gave a much more reasonable acceleration. I saw somewhere else on PF that the unreasonably high acceleration was plausible when applied through relativity and that the working was right (example was with a proton), but I'm convinced I've done this wrong. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Apologies for any formatting errors; I have read over guidelines and will be stricter on these in future
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Orodruin
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Your computation is fine given the input. Why do you think it is an unreasonable result?

Note that you can only use this acceleration for non-relativistic speeds so it will quickly become non-applicable (faster than millisecond scale).

It seems so, as the acceleration is ~400x the speed of light.
Stop right there! You absolutely cannot, I repeat cannot, compare an acceleration and a speed. They are different physical quantities with different physical dimensions (i.e., they are measured using different units).

In order to make an estimate of whether or not the classical approximation holds you need to involve a time scale, or estimate the time scales for which it holds (as I did above).
 
  • #3
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Hello Orodruin,

Thanks for the quick response!

Your computation is fine given the input. Why do you think it is an unreasonable result?

I questioned it originally just due to the sheer size of the magnitude; we had an in-class example that worked out around 2000m/s^2, for instance. Our lecturer is very insistent on examining outputs to check for reasonable results. Thank you for dispelling my doubts!

Stop right there! You absolutely cannot, I repeat cannot, compare an acceleration and a speed. They are different physical quantities with different physical dimensions (i.e., they are measured using different units).

Also appreciate this, thank you. I find I'm still making basic errors like this and trying to iron them out.

Out of interest, how is it that such a small force can result in such a large acceleration?
 
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Orodruin
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Out of interest, how is it that such a small force can result in such a large acceleration?
The electron is very very light.
 

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