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College Physics

Introduction to Electric Potential and Electric Energy

College PhysicsIntroduction to Electric Potential and Electric Energy

Air Force officials practice using an automated external defibrillator (AED). Electric potential energy is stored in the defibrillator unit and sent to resuscitate the patient.
Figure 19.1 Automated external defibrillator unit (AED) (credit: U.S. Defense Department photo/Tech. Sgt. Suzanne M. Day)

Chapter Outline

19.1 Electric Potential Energy: Potential Difference
  • Define electric potential and electric potential energy.
  • Describe the relationship between potential difference and electrical potential energy.
  • Explain electron volt and its usage in submicroscopic process.
  • Determine electric potential energy given potential difference and amount of charge.
19.2 Electric Potential in a Uniform Electric Field
  • Describe the relationship between voltage and electric field.
  • Derive an expression for the electric potential and electric field.
  • Calculate electric field strength given distance and voltage.
19.3 Electrical Potential Due to a Point Charge
  • Explain point charges and express the equation for electric potential of a point charge.
  • Distinguish between electric potential and electric field.
  • Determine the electric potential of a point charge given charge and distance.
19.4 Equipotential Lines
  • Explain equipotential lines and equipotential surfaces.
  • Describe the action of grounding an electrical appliance.
  • Compare electric field and equipotential lines.
19.5 Capacitors and Dielectrics
  • Describe the action of a capacitor and define capacitance.
  • Explain parallel plate capacitors and their capacitances.
  • Discuss the process of increasing the capacitance of a dielectric.
  • Determine capacitance given charge and voltage.
19.6 Capacitors in Series and Parallel
  • Derive expressions for total capacitance in series and in parallel.
  • Identify series and parallel parts in the combination of connection of capacitors.
  • Calculate the effective capacitance in series and parallel given individual capacitances.
19.7 Energy Stored in Capacitors
  • List some uses of capacitors.
  • Express in equation form the energy stored in a capacitor.
  • Explain the function of a defibrillator.

In Electric Charge and Electric Field, we just scratched the surface (or at least rubbed it) of electrical phenomena. Two of the most familiar aspects of electricity are its energy and voltage. We know, for example, that great amounts of electrical energy can be stored in batteries, are transmitted cross-country through power lines, and may jump from clouds to explode the sap of trees. In a similar manner, at molecular levels, ions cross cell membranes and transfer information. We also know about voltages associated with electricity. Batteries are typically a few volts, the outlets in your home produce 120 volts, and power lines can be as high as hundreds of thousands of volts. But energy and voltage are not the same thing. A motorcycle battery, for example, is small and would not be very successful in replacing the much larger car battery, yet each has the same voltage. In this chapter, we shall examine the relationship between voltage and electrical energy and begin to explore some of the many applications of electricity.

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