Lesson 2, Topic 2
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Electric Field Line

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Field line is a locus that is defined by a vector field and a starting location within the field. For the electric fields, we have electric field lines. As we have seen in Electrostatics, electric charges create an electric field in the space sorrounding them. It acts as a kind of “map” that gives that gives the direction and indicates the strength of the electric field at various regions in space. The concept of electric field lines was introduced by Michael Faraday, which helped him to easily visualize the electric field using intuition rather than mathematical analysis.

Definition of Electric Field Lines

An electric field line is an imaginary line or curve drawn through a region of empty space so that its tangent at any point is in the direction of the electric field vector at that point. The relative closeness of the lines at some place gives an idea about the intensity of electric field at that point.

Properties of Electric Field Lines

Electric field lines have some important and interesting properties, let us study them.

  • Electric field lines always begin on a positive charge and end on a negative charge, so they do not form closed curves. They do not start or stop in midspace
  • The number of electric field lines leaving a positive charge or entering a negative charge is proportional to the magnitude of the charge.
  • Electric field lines never intersect.
  • In an uniform electric field, the field lines are straight, parallel and uniformly spaced.
  • The electric field lines can never form closed loops, as line can never start and end on the same charge.
  • These field lines always flow from higher potential to lower potential.
  • If the electric field in a given region of space is zero, electric field lines do not exist.
  • The tangent to a line at any point gives the direction of the electric field at the point. Also, this is the path on which a positive test charge will tend to move if free to do so.

Why don’t electric field lines intersect ??

If the electric field lines intersect, then two tangents could be drawn at their point of intersection. Thus, the electric field intensity at the point will have two directions, which is absurd.