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ELECTRIC POTENTIAL
3.1 ELECTRIC POTENTIAL
Electric Strength can also be defined in units of work and energy. This alternative way of measuring the strength of an electric field entails finding the potential difference, which exits between any two points. To visualizing this difference picture an electric field, then trying to force a test charge in between two points, if the test charge is repelled, we have to do work to push it into place.

The potential at any point is defined as the work done per unit charge in moving a positive charge from zero potential to the point. (Let us choose infinity as the reference point for zero potential) V=

WA Fr kQq 0 r = = q0 q0 q0 r 2
V=

kQ r

V=

## kQ Q 1 = (the electric potential at a distance r from a single point charge Q) r 4 0 r

The electric potential at a point caused by a collection at the Point like charges Qi is found from the principle of superposition:

V = V1 + V2 + V3 + V=

V=k(

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Example 3.1 Two point charges Q1 = +0.015 C and Q2 = -0.015 C are placed as in a Figure 3.1. Compute the potential at point A .

C 10 cm 10 cm

Figure 3.1
A B

Q1

Q2

4 cm

6 cm

4 cm

kQ1 kQ2 + r1 r2

## VA = 3375 + (-964.3) = +2410.7V

Exercise 3.1

As in an example 3.1 and Figure 3.1. Compute the potential at point B and C.

Potential difference (difference in potential), between two points a and b is measurable. Since the difference in potential energy Va Vb , is equal to the negative of work Wba , done by the electric force to move the charge from point b to point a

Wba = q(Va Vb )
The work done to move the charge is given by

W = qV

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Example 3.2 Two point charges are arranged as in a Figure 3.2. Find the (a) potential at point X (b) potential at point Y (c) difference potential between point X and Y (d) work done to move a point charge q = 5C from X to Y

10 cm Y 20 cm X 20 cm Q2 = -14C

Figure 3.2

Q1 = +20C

Solution (a) (b) (c) (d) VX = VX1 + VX2 = 450000 V + (-630000 V) = -180000 V VY = VY1 + VY2 = 360000 V + (-420000 V) = -60000 V VXY = VY VX = -60000 - (-180000) = 120000 V

W XY = - VXY q
WXY = - VXY (q ) = - (120000 ) (5 X 10-6) = - 0.6 J

Exercise 3.2 From the Figure 3.2 above, find the work done to move a point charge q = -8C from X to infinity

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## 3.2 EQUIPOTENTIAL LINES/SURFACE

The electric potential can be representing diagrammatically by drawing equipotential lines or, in three dimensions, equipotential surfaces. An equipotential surface is one on which all point are at the same potential.

That is, the potential difference between any two points on the surface is zero, and no work is required to move a charge from one point to other. An equipotential surface must be perpendicular to the electric field at any point.

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Example 3.3

When an electron moves from A to B along an electric field line in Figure 3.3, the electric field does 3.94 x 10-19 J of work on it. What are the electric potential differences (a) VB - VA (b) VC - VA (c) VC - VB

a)

## WAB = -qV = -q (VB - VA ) VB - VA = WAB -q 3.94 x10-19 -(-1.60 x10-19 ) = 2.46V =

b) VC VA = VB VA = 2.46V Movement occur between same pair of equipotential line.

c)

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Example 3.4 An electron is released in a constant electric field of magnitude 150 NC-1 and of direction along the -ve y axis. What is the change in the electric potential energy of the electron when an electrostatic force causes it to move vertically upward through a distance d = 520 m? Solution The change in the electric potential energy, UE is related to the work done by the electric field on the electron. In a constant electric field, the electron is subjected to a constant electric force, F = qE. (i)

## Work done by a constant force is given by

v v W = F d = Fd cos (ii)

## Combining equation (i) and (ii),

W = qEd cos (iii)

The field is directed downward, that is opposite to the displacement of the electron. = 180o. The work done on the electron,
W = 1.6 10 19 (150 )(520 ) cos 180 o = 1.2 10
14

From equation,
UE = -W = -1.2x10-14 J.

The ve sign indicates that the energy of the field decreases. This is because 1.2 x 10-14 J of electric potential energy is used to move the electron in the field.

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Tutorial 3.1 1. Two point charges Q1 and Q2 lay 6m apart on a straight line as shown in Figure 3.5. Find the potential at the point midway between two charges.

6m

Figure 3.5
Q3 = +2C Q3 = +5C

(Ans : 21 kV)

2.

Two point charges Q1 = +20 C and Q2 = -10C are 20 cm as shown in Figure 3.6. Find (a) the potential at point x (b) the potential at point y (c) potential difference between points x and y. (d) work done to move a charge 5C from x to y.

20 cm
Q1 Q2

20 cm

10 cm Figure 3.6
X Y

## (Ans : 0 V, 60 kV, - 0.3 J)

3.

Two point charges Q1 and Q2 are arranged as shown in Figure 3.7. Find (a) the potential at point A and B (b) work necessary to move a +20 C test charge from point A to B (c) work done to move a 5C test charge from point B to infinity

30 cm

20 cm

B 10 cm
Q2 = -2C

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4.

Question 4 is referring to the Figure 3.8, (a) Calculate the electric force on Q1 due to other charges. (b) Find the electric field at origin (0,0) (c) Calculate the electric potential at origin (0,0)

Y (m)

## Q1 = -10C (0,2) Q2 = +5C Q3 = -5C X (m) (-2,0) Figure 3.8 (3,0)

(Ans : (a) 0.072N, 16.93(3rd quarter) ; (b) 27.75 x 103NC-1, = 54.20 1st quarter ; (c) -37.53 x 103V)

5.

Question 5 is referring to the Figure 3.9 draw the electric force vector on Q3 due to charge Q2 and Q1 (a) (b) find the resultant force on Q3 . (c) find the electric potential at point A and P (d) find work done to move a charge 2.0C from point P to A.

## 4cm A 3cm 6 cm X P 3cm

Q1 = +100C

Q3 =+300C

8 cm

Q2 = -200C

Figure 3.9 (Ans :(b) 72.94kN, 17.94 (4th quarter);(c) 3.825 x 107 V (c) 3.6 x 107 V; (d) -4.5 J)

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6.

Two point charges Q1 and Q2 are positioned at the corners of an equilateral triangle as indicated in Figure 3.10. (a) Find the resultant electric field at point A due to Q1 and Q2 charges (b) If a charge of q = + 10 C is located at point A, what is the magnitude of the force experienced by the charge? APR 2008 A Figure 3.10 5 cm 5 cm

Q1 = + 20 C Q1 5 cm Q2

Q2 = - 30 C

(Ans : i) 95.24 x 106 N/C, = -19.18o (4th quarter @ below positive x-axis) ii) 952.4 N

7.

In Figure 3.11 shows the equipotential lines around a point charge. (a) What is the work done to move a charge of 8.0C from B to A? (b) What is the work done to move a charge of 5.0 C from B to C? (c) (i) What is the potential difference between D and E? (ii) What is the work done to move a charge of 2.0 C from E to D (iii) Estimate the average force on a charge of 2.0C between E to D?

Figure 3.11
(Ans : a) -0.024 J V/m, b) 0 J, c) i) - 100 V ii) -2x10-4 J iii) 2.857x10-2 N)

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3.3 CAPACITOR
A capacitor is a device that is used to store electric charge. A basic structure of a capacitor consists of a pair of conducting plates separated by an insulator called dielectric. The symbol is used to denote a capacitor in an electric circuit. The measure of extent to which a capacitor can store charge is called its capacitance. It is defined as
C= Q V

where C = The capacitance ( unit = Farad, symbol = F) Q = The magnitude of charge on either plate ( unit = Coulomb) V = The potential difference between the plate ( unit = Volt, symbol = V ) Example 3.5 (a) (b) If the charge on a capacitor is 50C when the voltage across it is 25V, what is the capacitors capacitance? If the voltage across this capacitor is increased to 100V, what is the charge on the capacitor?

Solution
(a ) C= Q 50 10 6 C = = 2 10 6 C V 25 V

(b )

Q = CV = ( 2 10 6 F)(100 V ) = 200 10 6 C

3.3.1 Charging and discharging a capacitor Figure 3.12 shows an RC circuit that can be used to charge and discharge a capacitor.
a S b

R C

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Charging a capacitor When switch S is first closed on a, there is no charge on the capacitor. Therefore, there is no potential difference between the plates. Thus the full potential difference, appears across the resistor, setting up an initial current, / R. Once the current starts, charges began to appear on the capacitor plates and a potential difference, Q / C builds up between those plates. This results in the potential difference across the resistor to decrease by the same amount. This in turn reduces the charging current. Consequently, the charge on the capacitor plates builds up and the charging current falls off until the capacitor is fully charged. Discharging a capacitor Assume the capacitor in Figure 3.22 is fully charged to the voltage of the emf, . Switch S is then moved from a to b. Since now the battery is disconnected, current will flow from the capacitor. Electrons flow from the negative plate to the positive plate of the capacitor, causing the net charges on both plates to decrease, thus reducing the potential difference. The flow continues until the net charges on the positive and negative plate is zero, resulting in zero potential difference across the capacitor plates. The capacitor is now completely discharged. The varying amount of charge in a capacitor during charging and discharging is illustrated in Figure 3.13.
Q

Q0 Charging( Q = C( 1

e-t/RC ) )

Discharging( Q = Qoe-t/RC )

## Figure 1.19 Figure 3.13

Parallel plate capacitor Figure 3.14 shows the arrangement of a parallel plate capacitor where the magnitude of the charge on the surface of either plate is Q and the potential difference between them is V. Let the area of the plate be A and the plate separation be d. We will also assume that the dielectric material between the plates is free space / air / vacuum having the permittivity constant, 0.

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From the Gauss Theorem, the electric field strength between the plates is given by
Q = 0 0 A

E=

(a)

where
= Q = Charge per unit area of the plate/Surface charge density A

Area A +q d -q

Figure 3.14 Figure 1.20 From equation (a), the capacitance of a parallel plate capacitor is given by
Q 0EA = V V

C=

But
E= V d

## By substituting the equation, the capacitance of a parallel plate capacitor is then

C=

0 A d

Equation above indicates that the capacitance of a parallel plate capacitor depends only on its plate area and plate separation.

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Example 3.6 (a) What is the capacitance of a parallel plate capacitor that has square plates with lateral dimensions of 122 mm on one side, a plate separation of 0.24 mm and vacuum between the plates?

(b) What is the charge on the capacitor if the potential difference across it is 45V? Solution
(a ) C= 0 A (8.85 10 12 F / m)(0.122m) = = 5.5 10 10 F d 2.4 10 4 m = 550pF

(b )

## Q = CV = (550 10 12 F)( 45 V ) = 25 10 9 C = 25nC

Example 3.7

The plates of a parallel plate capacitor are in vacuum, 5.00 mm apart and 2.0 m2 in area. A potential difference of 10kV is applied across the capacitor. Compute (a) The capacitance of the capacitor. (b) The charge on each plate. (c) The magnitude of the electric field in the space between the plates. Solution
(a ) C= 0 A 8.85 10 12 F / m 2.00m 2 = d 5.00 10 3 m = 3.54 10 -9 = 3.54nF (b) Q = CV = 3.54 10 -9 F 10 10 3 V = 35.4C The plate at higher potential has a charge of + 35.4C and the other plate has a charge of - 35.4C.

)(

)(

(c ) E =

## Q 35.4 10 6 C = = = 2.00 10 6 N / C 0 0 A 8.85 10 12 F (2.00m) or

E=

V 10 10 3 V = = 2.00 10 6 V / m d 5.00 10 3 m

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3.3.2 Effect of A Dielectric Material In capacitors, dielectric materials are used (1) To increase the capacitance of a capacitor. (2) To allow the capacitor to be built in practical shapes and sizes. For example, paper is used as the dielectric material in a capacitor made of flexible plates of aluminum foil rolled into a cylinder. (3) To limit the potential difference that can be applied between the plates to a certain value Vmax , called the breakdown potential. If this value is exceeded, the dielectric material will breakdown and form a conducting path between the plates. Every dielectric material has a characteristic dielectric strength, which is the maximum electric field that can be tolerated without breaking down. The dielectric properties of dielectric materials are characterized by the dielectric constant, K of the material. Table 1 shows the value of K for several dielectric materials. Table 1 Values of K and dielectric strength for several dielectric material

Material Vacuum Air (STP) Polystyrene Ebonite Paper Pyrex Mica Water

## Dielectric constant, K 1 1.000576 2.6 3 3.5 4.7 7 80

Dielectric strength(kV/mm)

3 24

16 14

## The dielectric constant of a dielectric material is defined by

K= C C0

where C = The capacitance when the dielectric material is between the plates Co = The capacitance when there is air or vacuum between the plates. The presence of a dielectric material reduces the potential difference between the plates by a factor of K, as in equation. V0 =K V

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where V = The potential difference between the plates with the dielectric Vo = The potential difference between the plates without the dielectric Because the potential difference between the plates is reduced by a factor K when a dielectric is present, the electric field between the plates is reduced by the same factor. If E0 is the vacuum value and E the value with the dielectric, then
E0 =K E

The capacitance of any capacitor is proportional to the permittivity of the material between its plates. Therefore
C = C0 0

where
= The permittivity of the dielectric material 0 = The permittivity of free space/ air / vacuum

By comparing equations,
= K 0

E=

C = KC 0 = K 0

A A = d d

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Example 3.8 A parallel plate capacitor is initially charged to a potential difference of 3kV. After a sheet of dielectric material is inserted between the plates, the potential difference decreased to 1kV. If the plates have an area of 0.2m2 and are 1.00cm apart, compute (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) (g) The capacitance before the dielectric is inserted. The magnitude of charge on each plate before the dielectric is inserted. The capacitance after the dielectric is inserted. The dielectric constant, K of the material. The permittivity of the material. The electric field before the dielectric is inserted. The electric field after the dielectric is inserted.

Solution

(a )

C0 =

## 0 A 8.85 10 12 F / m 2.0 10 1 m 2 = d 1.00 10 2 m = 17.7 10 -11F

)(

(b)

Q 0 = C 0 V0 = 17.7 10 -11F 3 10 3 V = 0.531 x 10 6 C Q 0 0.531 10 6 C = = 53.1 10 11F V 1.00 10 3 V C 53.1 10 11F = = 3.00 C 0 17.7 10 -11F

)(

(c)

C=

( d)

K=

(e)

= K 0 = 8.85 10 12 F / m (3 ) = 26.6 10 12 F / m V0 3000 V = = 3.00 10 5 V / m d 1.00 10 2 m V 1000 V = = 1.00 10 5 V / m d 1.00 10 2 m or Q0 0.531 10 6 C = = 1.00 10 5 V / m 12 1 2 A 26.6 10 F / m 2.0 10 m

(f )

E=

( g)

E=

E=

)(

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Example 3.9 The electric field between the plates of a paper separated (K = 3.75) parallel plate capacitor is 9.21 x 104V/m. The plates are 1.95mm apart and the charge on each plate is 0.775C. Determine (a) the capacitance of the capacitor. (b) the area of each plate. Solution
(a ) V = Ed = 9.21 10 4 (1.95 10 3 = 179.5 V C= Q 0.775 10 = V 179.5
6

)(

= 4.32 10 9 F

(b )

C=

## K 0 A d Cd 4.32 10 9 1.95 10 3 A= = = 0.254m 2 12 K 0 3.75 8.85 10

)(

Example 3.10

A 5F capacitor with air between the metal plates is connected to a 30V battery. The battery is then removed, leaving the capacitor charged. (a) (b) Calculate the charge on the capacitor. The air between the plates is replaced by oil with K = 2.1. Find the new value of the capacitance, the new potential difference in the capacitor.

Solution (a) (b) Q = CV = (5)(30) = 150C The charges on the plates remain the same when the oil replaces the air since there is no battery connected to the capacitor. The capacitance increases by the factor of K C = KC (2.1)(5) = 10.5F The potential difference decreases by the factor of K V=V/K = (30)/(2.1) = 14.3V

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## 3.3.3 SERIES AND PARALLEL CAPACITOR

Capacitors can be connected in two basic ways, in series and in parallel. In series, the capacitors are connected head to tail (See Figure 3.15a). In parallel, the capacitors are connected head to head and tail to tail and all the leads on one side of the capacitors have a common connection (See Figure 3.15b).

C1

## C2 C1 C2 C3 C3 (a) Figure 3.15 (b)

In series, the charges are the same on all plates Q1 = Q2 = Q3 = Q . The sum of voltage drop across all capacitors equals the voltage of the source, VS = V1 + V2 + V3 Since V = Q/C, Q/Ceq = Q/C1 + Q/C2 + Q/C3 1/Ceq = 1/C1 + 1/C2 + 1/C3 The value of Ceq is the equivalent series capacitance that is the three capacitors in series could be replaced with one capacitor whose capacitance is Ceq. For any n number of capacitors in series,
n 1 1 = CS i =1 Ci

In parallel, the voltage across the capacitors is the same. V1 = V2 = V3 = V The total charges is the sum of the charges of individual capacitors, Qeq = Q1 + Q2 + Q3

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ELECTRIC POTENTIAL Since Q = CV, CeqV = C1V + C2V + C3V Ceq = C1 + C2 + C3 (2.23)

The value of Ceq is the equivalent parallel capacitance. That is the three capacitors in parallel could be replaced with one capacitor whose capacitance is Ceq. For any n number of capacitors in parallel,
CP = Ci
i =1 n

(2.24)

Example 3.11

## \Find the equivalent capacitance of the combination shown in Figure 3.16.

12F 3F C1 11F C3 C2 6F C4 9F C5

Solution
C 3 and C 4 are in series to each other, 1 1 1 1 1 3 = + = + = C 34 C 3 C 4 12 6 12

## C 34 = 4F C 34 , C1 and C 2 are parallel to each other, C1234 = C 34 + C1 + C 2 = 18F

1 1 1 1 1 3 = + = + = C eq C1234 C 5 18 9 18

C eq = 6F

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Example 3.12

Calculate the charges on the capacitors shown in Figure 3.17 and the potential difference across it.
2F X Y

3F

Figure 3.17
4F Z

Solution

= 120V

## C Y and C Z are in parallel to each other C YZ = C Y + C Z = 6F

1 1 1 1 1 3 = + = + = C T C X C YZ 3 6 6

C T = 2F

## Q T = C T VT = 2 10 6 (120 ) = 240C Since C X and C YZ are in series, Q X = Q YZ = 240C

For X,
If the potential across X is VX , Q X = C X VX VX = Q X 240 = = 80 V CX 3

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## 3.3.4 ENERGY STORED IN A CHARGED CAPACITOR

During the charging of a capacitor, the addition of electrons to the negative plate involves doing work against the repulsive forces of the electrons that are already there. As charges accumulate on the capacitor plates, the battery will have to do increasingly larger amounts of work to transfer additional electrons. The work that is done in charging the capacitor is stored in the form of electrical potential energy. It can be shown that the electrical potential energy stored in a charged capacitor is
Q2 2C

U=

## By using equation Q=CV, it can be shown that U is also given by

U= 1 1 CV 2 = QV 2 2

Example 3.13 A certain parallel plate capacitor consists of two plates, each with area 200 cm2, separated by a 0.4 cm air gap. (a) (b) (c) Compute the capacitance of the capacitor. If the capacitor is connected to a 500V source, compute the energy stored in the capacitor. If a liquid with K = 2.60 is poured between the plates so as to fill the air gap, how much additional charges will flow onto the capacitor from the 500V source?

Solution
(a ) C= 0 A 8.85 10 12 (0.02) = = 44pF d 0.004

(b )

## Q = CV = 44 10 12 (500 ) = 22nC 1 1 QV = 22 10 9 (500 ) = 5.5J 2 2

U=

(c )

The capacitor will now have a capacitance 2.60 times larger than before. Therefore, Q ' = KQ 0 = (2.60 ) 22 10 9 = 57nC As a result, the amount of charge flowing onto the capacitor is Q = Q ' Q 0 = 35nC

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Example 3.14 A 5F capacitor(X) is fully charged by a 40V supply. The supply is then disconnected the capacitor. It is then connected across an uncharged 20F capacitor(Y) (See Figure 3.18). Calculate (a) the final potential difference across each (b) the final charge on each (c) the initial and final energies stored by the capacitors.

## Y Figure 1.24 Figure 3.18

Solution (a) The initial charge, Q0 = CXV0 = (40)(5x10-6) = 200C When X and Y are connected, they are parallel to each other Total capacitance, CT = CX + CY = 5F + 20F = 25F The total charge is unchanged, Q0 = QX + QY Q0 = CTVT 200x10-6C = 25x10-6VT VT = 200/25 = 8V (b) When X and Y are connected, the total charge is unchanged. For Y, QX = CXVT = 8 x (20x10-6) = 160x10-6C Since the total charge is conserved, Q0 = QX + QY QX = Q0 - QY = (200 160)x10-6C = 40x10-6C (c) The initial energy, Ui = (1/2)CXV02 = (1/2)(5x10-6)(40)2 = 4mJ The final energy, Uf = (1/2)CXVT2 + (1/2)CYVT2 = (1/2)(5F + 20F)(8)2 = 0.8mJ

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Tutorial 3.2 1. A parallel plate capacitor consist of two square plates each of side 25 cm, 3.0 mm apart. If a p.d. of 200 V is applied, calculate the charge on the plates with (i) air (ii) paper of dielectric constant 2.5, filling the space between them. (Answer : (i) 37 nC (ii) 93 nC)

2. A parallel plate capacitor has a capacitance of 1.5 F with air between the plates. The capacitor is connected to a 12 V battery and fully charged. When a dielectric is placed between the plates, a potential difference of 5.0 V is measured across the plates. What is the dielectric constant of the material? (Answer : 2.4) A capacitor is made of two parallel plates, each with an area of 146 cm2. The plates are separated 0.58 mm from each other. Half of the area is filled with paper (K=3.5) and half is filled with air (See Figure 3.19). Calculate the capacitance of the capacitor.

3.

paper

air

Figure 3.19

12 V 5F 3F 6F 6F

4F 4F

1000 V

(b)

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5. In Figure 3.21, calculate (a) the equivalent capacitance in the circuit. (b) the voltage across the 10F capacitor in the circuit.

30F 10F 12 V 30F 12F 12F (Answer: a) 4.84F b) 2.32 V) 6. Four capacitors are connected across terminals a and b as shown in Figure 3.22. (a) Calculate the equivalent capacitance across ab (b) If a steady voltage of 100V is connected across ab, find (i) the charge on the 5F capacitor. (ii) the voltage across the 10F capacitor. 2F
a

Figure 3.21

5F
3F b

Figure 3.22

10F (Answer : (a) 2F (b) (i) 200C (ii) 20V) 7. Compute the energy stored in a 60 pF capacitor (a) when charged to a pd of 2 kV (b) when the charge on the plate is 30 nC. (Answer : (a) 120 J (b) 7.5 J) 8. A parallel plate capacitor having area 40 cm2 and spacing of 1 mm is charged to a potential difference of 600V. Find (a) the capacitance (b) the magnitude of charge on each plate (c) the stored energy (d) the electric field between the plate (Answer: (a) 35 pF (b) 21 nC (c) 6.3 J (d) 6.0x105 V/m)

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ELECTRIC POTENTIAL A parallel plate capacitor is made up of two parallel plates of area 600cm2 separated at 5mm by a layer of wax paper of dielectric constant of 2.0. Compute (a) the capacitance of the above capacitor (b) the energy stored in the capacitor when it is connected across a p.d. of 6V. (Answer : (a) 212.4 pF (b) 3.82 nJ)

9.

10. With reference to the capacitive circuit in Figure 3.23, find: (a) the total electrical energy stored in the 5F and 4F capacitors. (b) the electric charge stored in the 3F capacitor. (Answer : (a) 160J (b) 36C)

Figure 3.23 11. A parallel plate capacitor consists of plate of area 1.5 x 10-4 m2 and separated by 1.0 mm. The capacitor is connected to a 12 V battery. (a) What is the charge on the plate? (b) How much energy is stored in the capacitor? APR 2009 (Answer : 1.6 x 10-11 C, 9.6 x 10-11 J)

## 12. Three capacitors are connected as shown in Figure 3.24.

Figure 3.24

A 12 V potential difference is applied to the terminals. (a) What is the total capacitance across the terminals (b) Find the charge on each capacitor (c) Find the voltage across each capacitor APR 2008 (Answer : a) 6 F b) 48 F , 24 F c) 8 V, 4 V)