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Physics 2102

Jonathan Dowling

Physics 2102
Lecture 15
Biot-Savart Law

Jean-Baptiste Biot Felix Savart

(1774-1862) (1791–1841)
What Are We Going to Learn?
A Road Map
• Electric charge
 Electric force on other electric charges
 Electric field, and electric potential
• Moving electric charges : current
• Electronic circuit components: batteries, resistors, capacitors
• Electric currents  Magnetic field
 Magnetic force on moving charges
• Time-varying magnetic field  Electric Field
• More circuit components: inductors.
• Electromagnetic waves  light waves
• Geometrical Optics (light rays).
• Physical optics (light waves)
Electric Current:
A Source of Magnetic Field
• Observation: an
electric current
creates a magnetic
• Simple experiment:
hold a current-
carrying wire near a
compass needle! Wire with
INTO page

Yet Another Right Hand Rule!
• Point your thumb along the direction of the
current in a straight wire
• The magnetic field created by the current i
consists of circular loops directed along your B
curled fingers.
• The magnetic field gets weaker with distance.
• You can apply this to ANY straight wire (even Direction of B??? i
a small differential element!)
• What if you have a curved wire? Break into
small elements.
• Magnetic fields (like electric OUT OUT
fields) can be “superimposed” --
just do a vector sum of B from
different sources
• The figure shows four wires
located at the 4 corners of a
square. They carry equal
currents in directions indicated
• What is the direction of B at the IN
center of the square? IN

Biot-Savart Law
When we computed the electric field due to charges we used
Coulomb’s law. If one had a large irregular object, one broke it
into infinitesimal pieces and computed,
r 1 dq Which we write as, r r
dq r
dE = rˆ dE =
4!" 0 r 2
4!" 0 r 3

If you wish to compute the magnetic field due to a

current in a wire, you use the law of Biot and Savart.
The Biot-Savart Law
Jean-Baptiste r Felix Savart
Biot (1774-1862)
dL (1791-1841)
• Quantitative rule for i
computing the magnetic field r
from any electric current r r
• Choose a differential element r µ 0 idL ! r
of wire of length dL and dB =
carrying a current i 4" r 3

• The field dB from this element

at a point located by the vector r
r dq r
r is given by the Biot-Savart Compare with dE =
Law 4!" 0 r 3

µ0 =4πx10 Tm/A

(permeability constant)
Biot-Savart Law
• An infinitely long straight wire
carries a current i.
• Determine the magnetic field
generated at a point located at a
perpendicular distance R from r µ 0 idsr ! rr
the wire. dB =
4" r 3
• Choose an element ds as shown
µ 0 ids (r sin ! )
• Biot-Savart Law: dB points dB =
INTO the page
4" r 3

µ 0i ds (r sin $ )
4% #!"
• Integrate over all such elements B=
Field of a Straight Wire
r µ 0 idsr ! rr µ 0 ids (r sin ! )
dB = dB =
4" r 3 4" r3

sin ! = R / r r = ( s 2 + R 2 )1/ 2

" "
µ 0i ds (r sin $ ) µ 0i Rds
! 4$ #!" (s 2 + R 2 )3 / 2
B= =
4% #" r 3

µ 0i Rds
2# !0 (s 2 + R 2 )3 / 2
µ 0iR ' s $ µ 0i
= % 2 2 1/ 2 " =
2( %& R (s + R ) "#
Example : A Practical Matter
A power line carries a µ 0i
current of 500 A. What is 2!R
the magnetic field in a house
located 100 m away from (4!x10 "7 T .m / A)(500 A)
the power line? =
2! (100m)
= 1 µT!!

Recall that the earth’s magnetic

field is ~10–4T = 100 µT
Biot-Savart Law
• A circular arc of wire of radius
R carries a current i. i
• What is the magnetic field at
the center of the loop?
r µ 0 i ds ! rr
dB = Direction of B?? Not another
4" r 3 right hand rule?!
TWO right hand rules!:
µ 0 idsR µ 0 iRd! If your thumb points along the
dB = = CURRENT, your fingers will
4" R 3
4" R 2
point in the same direction as the
µ0 id! µ0i# If you curl our fingers around
4" R$ =
4" R
direction of CURRENT, your
thumb points along FIELD!
Forces between wires
Magnetic field due to wire 1
where the wire 2 is,

µ0 I1
L I1 I2 B1 =
2! a
F Force on wire 2 due to this field,

µ0 LI1 I 2
F21 = L I 2 B1 =
2! a

• Magnetic fields exert forces on moving charges:
• The force is perpendicular to the field and the velocity.
• A current loop is a magnetic dipole moment.
• Uniform magnetic fields exert torques on dipole moments.
• Electric currents produce magnetic fields:
•To compute magnetic fields produced by currents, use Biot-
Savart’s law for each element of current, and then integrate.
• Straight currents produce circular magnetic field lines, with
amplitude B=µ0i/2πr (use right hand rule for direction).
• Circular currents produce a magnetic field at the center
(given by another right hand rule) equal to B=µ0iΦ/4πr
• Wires currying currents produce forces on each other:
parallel currents attract, antiparallel currents repel.