Difference Between Electric Field and Electric Potential (With Table)

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Electric current is formed when two charged particles are brought close to each other. Depending on the charges present, the flow of the current is described.

The electric current can be measured using various measurements and units. These units and measurements are defined and formulated ones that help in determining the value of the electric current. Two of them being electric field and electric potential.

Electric Field vs Electric Potential

The difference between Electric Field and Electric Potential is that electric field is the force exerted by the charge on its surrounding whereas the electric potential is the measure of the electric field.

An electric field is the measure of the force exerted by charged particles. Every charged particle has an electric field of their own and this decreases with increase in the distance between the particle and the point where the force is being measured.

An electric potential on the other hand is the measure of the electric field of a particle. The electric potential also decreases with an increase in distance. The unit of measurement is Volt.

Comparison Table Between Electric Field and Electric Potential

Parameters of ComparisonElectric FieldElectric Potential
DefinitionThe amount of force per chargeThe amount of energy per charge
MagnitudeVector quantityScalar quantity
UnitsNewtons per coulombVolt
MeasurementA measure of the force exerted by the charged particles on the surroundingA measure of the electric field
ContinuityIs not always continuous but is never infinityIs always continuous
Relation with distanceDecreases with the increase in distanceDecreases with the increase in the square of the distance

What is Electric Field?

The electric field is the force exerted by a charged particle on the surrounding. It decreases with increase in the distance. This is because further, the point is from the charged particle, lesser is the force exerted. The force exerted can be positive or negative depending on the charge of the particle.

The formula for calculating the electric field is usually,

E=F/q or E=Kq/r^2

Where,

  1.  E=electric field
  2. F=force exerted
  3. Q=charge of the particle
  4. r=distance of the charge
  5. K=constant

From the formula, we obtain the unit of the electric field to be Newton per Coulomb(N/C) and the SI unit of an electric field is volt per meter(V/m). according to the unit, we can also define the electric field as the force exerted per unit charge.

An electric field is also described as the physical field or area around every charged particle and measures the area up to which the force is being exerted. The charged particle exerts a repulsive or attractive force on other nearby charged particles.

This is a vector quantity.

What is Electric Potential?

Electric potential is the measure of the electric field produced when a charge is moved from one point to another. It is also described as the energy or work done on moving a unit charge from infinity to a point on the electric field when the acceleration of the particle is zero.

The formula for electric potential is,

V=W/Q or V=Kq/r

Where,

  1. V=electric potential
  2. W=work done
  3. Q,q=charge
  4. r=distance
  5. K=constant

From the formula, we can derive the unit of electric potential as joules per coulomb (J/C) but the SI unit of electric potential is volt(V). From the units, we can define electric potential as the energy or work done per unit charge.

The formula for electric potential changes with a change like the charged particle and the shape of the solid for which the potential is to be determined.

This is a scalar quantity.

Difference Between Electric Field and Electric Potential

  1. The main difference between the electric field and electric potential lies in the definition. The electric field is the force exerted per unit charged particle whereas the electric potential is the energy or work done per charged particle.
  2. Since the electric field depends on the direction of the force exerted, it is a vector quantity. But this is not the case in electric potential as it is independent of the direction of the charged particle or the force and remains a scalar quantity.
  3. The formula for calculating the two measurements are different therefore there is a difference in the SI units of the two as well. The SI unit of an electric field is volt per meter or V/m whereas the SI unit of electric potential is volt or simply V.
  4. As the definitions suggest, the electric field measures the force exerted per charged particle. The electric potential measures the electric field per charged particle or the work done(or energy used).
  5. The electric potential is always a continuous function whereas the electric field is not a continuous function. It varies from region to region or point to point as it also depends on the particle the force is being exerted. But the value never tends to infinity.
  6. As the force exerted decreases with increase in the distance between the charged particles or the point and the charged particle, the electric field is inversely proportional to the distance. On the other hand, the electric potential is inversely proportional to the square of the distance(distance being the distance between the initial and final point).

Conclusion

Electric current is a well-known term for everyone using an electrical appliance. This current generated has many applications and many more terms, theories and formulas related to the analysis and evaluation of it.

Every charged particle has a field of force around them that exerts a force of attraction or repulsion on surrounding particles. This field is called electric field.

Electric potential is the work done or energy required to bring a unit charge from infinity to a point on the electric field without any acceleration being produced. In other words, it can also be considered as the measure of electric field per unit charge.

Electric potential only measures the work done without acceleration. This does not require the direction of the charge and therefore is a scalar quantity. Whereas the electric field depends on the direction of the force being exerted and the magnitude of the charged particle. It is therefore a vector quantity.

References

  1. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/218/4571/467.abstract
  2. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2002JA009429