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University Physics Volume 2

6.2 Explaining Gauss’s Law

University Physics Volume 26.2 Explaining Gauss’s Law
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  1. Preface
  2. Unit 1. Thermodynamics
    1. 1 Temperature and Heat
      1. Introduction
      2. 1.1 Temperature and Thermal Equilibrium
      3. 1.2 Thermometers and Temperature Scales
      4. 1.3 Thermal Expansion
      5. 1.4 Heat Transfer, Specific Heat, and Calorimetry
      6. 1.5 Phase Changes
      7. 1.6 Mechanisms of Heat Transfer
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    2. 2 The Kinetic Theory of Gases
      1. Introduction
      2. 2.1 Molecular Model of an Ideal Gas
      3. 2.2 Pressure, Temperature, and RMS Speed
      4. 2.3 Heat Capacity and Equipartition of Energy
      5. 2.4 Distribution of Molecular Speeds
      6. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    3. 3 The First Law of Thermodynamics
      1. Introduction
      2. 3.1 Thermodynamic Systems
      3. 3.2 Work, Heat, and Internal Energy
      4. 3.3 First Law of Thermodynamics
      5. 3.4 Thermodynamic Processes
      6. 3.5 Heat Capacities of an Ideal Gas
      7. 3.6 Adiabatic Processes for an Ideal Gas
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    4. 4 The Second Law of Thermodynamics
      1. Introduction
      2. 4.1 Reversible and Irreversible Processes
      3. 4.2 Heat Engines
      4. 4.3 Refrigerators and Heat Pumps
      5. 4.4 Statements of the Second Law of Thermodynamics
      6. 4.5 The Carnot Cycle
      7. 4.6 Entropy
      8. 4.7 Entropy on a Microscopic Scale
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
  3. Unit 2. Electricity and Magnetism
    1. 5 Electric Charges and Fields
      1. Introduction
      2. 5.1 Electric Charge
      3. 5.2 Conductors, Insulators, and Charging by Induction
      4. 5.3 Coulomb's Law
      5. 5.4 Electric Field
      6. 5.5 Calculating Electric Fields of Charge Distributions
      7. 5.6 Electric Field Lines
      8. 5.7 Electric Dipoles
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
    2. 6 Gauss's Law
      1. Introduction
      2. 6.1 Electric Flux
      3. 6.2 Explaining Gauss’s Law
      4. 6.3 Applying Gauss’s Law
      5. 6.4 Conductors in Electrostatic Equilibrium
      6. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    3. 7 Electric Potential
      1. Introduction
      2. 7.1 Electric Potential Energy
      3. 7.2 Electric Potential and Potential Difference
      4. 7.3 Calculations of Electric Potential
      5. 7.4 Determining Field from Potential
      6. 7.5 Equipotential Surfaces and Conductors
      7. 7.6 Applications of Electrostatics
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    4. 8 Capacitance
      1. Introduction
      2. 8.1 Capacitors and Capacitance
      3. 8.2 Capacitors in Series and in Parallel
      4. 8.3 Energy Stored in a Capacitor
      5. 8.4 Capacitor with a Dielectric
      6. 8.5 Molecular Model of a Dielectric
      7. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    5. 9 Current and Resistance
      1. Introduction
      2. 9.1 Electrical Current
      3. 9.2 Model of Conduction in Metals
      4. 9.3 Resistivity and Resistance
      5. 9.4 Ohm's Law
      6. 9.5 Electrical Energy and Power
      7. 9.6 Superconductors
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    6. 10 Direct-Current Circuits
      1. Introduction
      2. 10.1 Electromotive Force
      3. 10.2 Resistors in Series and Parallel
      4. 10.3 Kirchhoff's Rules
      5. 10.4 Electrical Measuring Instruments
      6. 10.5 RC Circuits
      7. 10.6 Household Wiring and Electrical Safety
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    7. 11 Magnetic Forces and Fields
      1. Introduction
      2. 11.1 Magnetism and Its Historical Discoveries
      3. 11.2 Magnetic Fields and Lines
      4. 11.3 Motion of a Charged Particle in a Magnetic Field
      5. 11.4 Magnetic Force on a Current-Carrying Conductor
      6. 11.5 Force and Torque on a Current Loop
      7. 11.6 The Hall Effect
      8. 11.7 Applications of Magnetic Forces and Fields
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    8. 12 Sources of Magnetic Fields
      1. Introduction
      2. 12.1 The Biot-Savart Law
      3. 12.2 Magnetic Field Due to a Thin Straight Wire
      4. 12.3 Magnetic Force between Two Parallel Currents
      5. 12.4 Magnetic Field of a Current Loop
      6. 12.5 Ampère’s Law
      7. 12.6 Solenoids and Toroids
      8. 12.7 Magnetism in Matter
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    9. 13 Electromagnetic Induction
      1. Introduction
      2. 13.1 Faraday’s Law
      3. 13.2 Lenz's Law
      4. 13.3 Motional Emf
      5. 13.4 Induced Electric Fields
      6. 13.5 Eddy Currents
      7. 13.6 Electric Generators and Back Emf
      8. 13.7 Applications of Electromagnetic Induction
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    10. 14 Inductance
      1. Introduction
      2. 14.1 Mutual Inductance
      3. 14.2 Self-Inductance and Inductors
      4. 14.3 Energy in a Magnetic Field
      5. 14.4 RL Circuits
      6. 14.5 Oscillations in an LC Circuit
      7. 14.6 RLC Series Circuits
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    11. 15 Alternating-Current Circuits
      1. Introduction
      2. 15.1 AC Sources
      3. 15.2 Simple AC Circuits
      4. 15.3 RLC Series Circuits with AC
      5. 15.4 Power in an AC Circuit
      6. 15.5 Resonance in an AC Circuit
      7. 15.6 Transformers
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    12. 16 Electromagnetic Waves
      1. Introduction
      2. 16.1 Maxwell’s Equations and Electromagnetic Waves
      3. 16.2 Plane Electromagnetic Waves
      4. 16.3 Energy Carried by Electromagnetic Waves
      5. 16.4 Momentum and Radiation Pressure
      6. 16.5 The Electromagnetic Spectrum
      7. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
  4. A | Units
  5. B | Conversion Factors
  6. C | Fundamental Constants
  7. D | Astronomical Data
  8. E | Mathematical Formulas
  9. F | Chemistry
  10. G | The Greek Alphabet
  11. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
    12. Chapter 12
    13. Chapter 13
    14. Chapter 14
    15. Chapter 15
    16. Chapter 16
  12. Index

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • State Gauss’s law
  • Explain the conditions under which Gauss’s law may be used
  • Apply Gauss’s law in appropriate systems

We can now determine the electric flux through an arbitrary closed surface due to an arbitrary charge distribution. We found that if a closed surface does not have any charge inside where an electric field line can terminate, then any electric field line entering the surface at one point must necessarily exit at some other point of the surface. Therefore, if a closed surface does not have any charges inside the enclosed volume, then the electric flux through the surface is zero. Now, what happens to the electric flux if there are some charges inside the enclosed volume? Gauss’s law gives a quantitative answer to this question.

To get a feel for what to expect, let’s calculate the electric flux through a spherical surface around a positive point charge q, since we already know the electric field in such a situation. Recall that when we place the point charge at the origin of a coordinate system, the electric field at a point P that is at a distance r from the charge at the origin is given by

EP=14πε0qr2r^,EP=14πε0qr2r^,

where r^r^ is the radial vector from the charge at the origin to the point P. We can use this electric field to find the flux through the spherical surface of radius r, as shown in Figure 6.13.

A sphere labeled S with radius R is shown. At its center, is a small circle with a plus sign, labeled q. A small patch on the sphere is labeled dA. Two arrows point outward from here, perpendicular to the surface of the sphere. The smaller arrow is labeled n hat equal to r hat. The longer arrow is labeled vector E.
Figure 6.13 A closed spherical surface surrounding a point charge q.

Then we apply Φ=SE·n^dAΦ=SE·n^dA to this system and substitute known values. On the sphere, n^=r^n^=r^ and r=Rr=R, so for an infinitesimal area dA,

dΦ=E·n^dA=14πε0qR2r^·r^dA=14πε0qR2dA.dΦ=E·n^dA=14πε0qR2r^·r^dA=14πε0qR2dA.

We now find the net flux by integrating this flux over the surface of the sphere:

Φ=14πε0qR2SdA=14πε0qR2(4πR2)=qε0.Φ=14πε0qR2SdA=14πε0qR2(4πR2)=qε0.

where the total surface area of the spherical surface is 4πR2.4πR2. This gives the flux through the closed spherical surface at radius r as

Φ=qε0.Φ=qε0.
(6.4)

A remarkable fact about this equation is that the flux is independent of the size of the spherical surface. This can be directly attributed to the fact that the electric field of a point charge decreases as 1/r21/r2 with distance, which just cancels the r2r2 rate of increase of the surface area.

Electric Field Lines Picture

An alternative way to see why the flux through a closed spherical surface is independent of the radius of the surface is to look at the electric field lines. Note that every field line from q that pierces the surface at radius R1R1 also pierces the surface at R2R2 (Figure 6.14).

Figure shows three concentric circles. The smallest one at the center is labeled q, the middle one has radius R1 and the largest one has radius R2. Eight arrows radiate outward from the center in all eight directions.
Figure 6.14 Flux through spherical surfaces of radii R1R1 and R2R2 enclosing a charge q are equal, independent of the size of the surface, since all E-field lines that pierce one surface from the inside to outside direction also pierce the other surface in the same direction.

Therefore, the net number of electric field lines passing through the two surfaces from the inside to outside direction is equal. This net number of electric field lines, which is obtained by subtracting the number of lines in the direction from outside to inside from the number of lines in the direction from inside to outside gives a visual measure of the electric flux through the surfaces.

You can see that if no charges are included within a closed surface, then the electric flux through it must be zero. A typical field line enters the surface at dA1dA1 and leaves at dA2.dA2. Every line that enters the surface must also leave that surface. Hence the net “flow” of the field lines into or out of the surface is zero (Figure 6.15(a)). The same thing happens if charges of equal and opposite sign are included inside the closed surface, so that the total charge included is zero (part (b)). A surface that includes the same amount of charge has the same number of field lines crossing it, regardless of the shape or size of the surface, as long as the surface encloses the same amount of charge (part (c)).

Figure a shows an irregular 3 dimensional shape labeled S. A small circle with a plus sign, labeled q is outside it. Three arrows labeled vector E originate from q and pass through S. The patches where the arrows pierce the surface of S are highlighted. The patch where one arrow enters the shape is labeled dA1 and the patch where the arrow emerges from the shape is labeled dA2. Figure b shows an oval with two small circles inside it. These are labeled plus and minus. Three arrow from outside the oval point to the circle labeled minus. Three arrows point from plus to minus. Three arrows point from plus to outside the oval. Figure c has an irregular shape labeled S2. Within it is a circle named S1. At its center is a small circle labeled plus. Six arrows radiate outward from here in different directions.
Figure 6.15 Understanding the flux in terms of field lines. (a) The electric flux through a closed surface due to a charge outside that surface is zero. (b) Charges are enclosed, but because the net charge included is zero, the net flux through the closed surface is also zero. (c) The shape and size of the surfaces that enclose a charge does not matter because all surfaces enclosing the same charge have the same flux.

Statement of Gauss’s Law

Gauss’s law generalizes this result to the case of any number of charges and any location of the charges in the space inside the closed surface. According to Gauss’s law, the flux of the electric field EE through any closed surface, also called a Gaussian surface, is equal to the net charge enclosed (qenc)(qenc) divided by the permittivity of free space (ε0)(ε0):

ΦClosed Surface=qencε0.ΦClosed Surface=qencε0.

This equation holds for charges of either sign, because we define the area vector of a closed surface to point outward. If the enclosed charge is negative (see Figure 6.16(b)), then the flux through either SorS'SorS' is negative.

Figure a has an irregular shape labeled S. Within it is a circle labeled S prime. At its center is a small circle labeled plus. Six arrows radiate outward from here in different directions. Figure b has the same irregular shape S and circle S prime. At its center is a small circle labeled minus. Six arrows from different directions radiate inward to minus.
Figure 6.16 The electric flux through any closed surface surrounding a point charge q is given by Gauss’s law. (a) Enclosed charge is positive. (b) Enclosed charge is negative.

The Gaussian surface does not need to correspond to a real, physical object; indeed, it rarely will. It is a mathematical construct that may be of any shape, provided that it is closed. However, since our goal is to integrate the flux over it, we tend to choose shapes that are highly symmetrical.

If the charges are discrete point charges, then we just add them. If the charge is described by a continuous distribution, then we need to integrate appropriately to find the total charge that resides inside the enclosed volume. For example, the flux through the Gaussian surface S of Figure 6.17 is Φ=(q1+q2+q5)/ε0.Φ=(q1+q2+q5)/ε0. Note that qencqenc is simply the sum of the point charges. If the charge distribution were continuous, we would need to integrate appropriately to compute the total charge within the Gaussian surface.

Figure shows an irregular shape labeled S. Within it are charges labeled positive q1 and negative q2 and q5. Outside S are charges labeled positive q3, q4, q6 and q N minus 1 and negative q7 and q N.
Figure 6.17 The flux through the Gaussian surface shown, due to the charge distribution, is Φ=|q1|+|q2|+|q5|/ε0.Φ=|q1|+|q2|+|q5|/ε0.

Recall that the principle of superposition holds for the electric field. Therefore, the total electric field at any point, including those on the chosen Gaussian surface, is the sum of all the electric fields present at this point. This allows us to write Gauss’s law in terms of the total electric field.

Gauss’s Law

The flux ΦΦ of the electric field EE through any closed surface S (a Gaussian surface) is equal to the net charge enclosed (qenc)(qenc) divided by the permittivity of free space (ε0):(ε0):

Φ=SE·n^dA=qencε0.Φ=SE·n^dA=qencε0.
(6.5)

To use Gauss’s law effectively, you must have a clear understanding of what each term in the equation represents. The field EE is the total electric field at every point on the Gaussian surface. This total field includes contributions from charges both inside and outside the Gaussian surface. However, qencqenc is just the charge inside the Gaussian surface. Finally, the Gaussian surface is any closed surface in space. That surface can coincide with the actual surface of a conductor, or it can be an imaginary geometric surface. The only requirement imposed on a Gaussian surface is that it be closed (Figure 6.18).

Figure shows a bottle that looks like an upside down flask whose neck is elongated, bent upward, twisted, taken inside the bottle and joined with its base, thus having only one surface.
Figure 6.18 A Klein bottle partially filled with a liquid. Could the Klein bottle be used as a Gaussian surface?

Example 6.5

Electric Flux through Gaussian Surfaces Calculate the electric flux through each Gaussian surface shown in Figure 6.19.

Figures a through d show irregular shapes and figure e shows a cube. Figure a has a charge inside the shape labeled plus 2.0 mu C. Figure b has a charge inside the shape labeled minus 2.0 mu C. Figure c has a charge inside the shape labeled plus 2.0 mu C and two charges outside labeled plus 4 mu C and minus 2.0 mu C. Figure d has three charges inside the shape labeled minus 1.0 mu C, minus 4.0 mu C and plus 6.0 mu C and two charges outside the shape labeled minus 5.0 mu C and plus 4.0 mu C. Figure e has three charges inside labeled plus 4.0 mu C, plus 6.0 mu C and minus 10.0 mu C and two charges outside the cube labeled plus 5.0 mu C and 3.0 mu C.
Figure 6.19 Various Gaussian surfaces and charges.

Strategy From Gauss’s law, the flux through each surface is given by qenc/ε0,qenc/ε0, where qencqenc is the charge enclosed by that surface.

Solution For the surfaces and charges shown, we find

  1. Φ=2.0μCε0=2.3×105N·m2/C.Φ=2.0μCε0=2.3×105N·m2/C.
  2. Φ=−2.0μCε0=−2.3×105N·m2/C.Φ=−2.0μCε0=−2.3×105N·m2/C.
  3. Φ=2.0μCε0=2.3×105N·m2/C.Φ=2.0μCε0=2.3×105N·m2/C.
  4. Φ=−4.0μC+6.0μC1.0μCε0=1.1×105N·m2/C.Φ=−4.0μC+6.0μC1.0μCε0=1.1×105N·m2/C.
  5. Φ=4.0μC+6.0μC10.0μCε0=0.Φ=4.0μC+6.0μC10.0μCε0=0.

Significance In the special case of a closed surface, the flux calculations become a sum of charges. In the next section, this will allow us to work with more complex systems.

Check Your Understanding 6.3

Calculate the electric flux through the closed cubical surface for each charge distribution shown in Figure 6.20.

Figures a through d show a cuboid with one corner at the origin of the coordinate axes. In figure a, there is a charge plus 3.0 mu C on the surface parallel to the yz plane. In figure b, there is a charge minus 3.0 mu C on the surface parallel to the yz plane. In figure c, there is a charge plus 3.0 mu C on the surface parallel to the yz plane, a charge minus 3.0 mu C on the y axis outside the shape and a charge plus 6.0 mu C outside the shape. In figure d, there is a charge minus 3.0 mu C on the y axis outside the shape and charges plus 3.0 mu C and plus 6.0 mu C outside the shape.
Figure 6.20 A cubical Gaussian surface with various charge distributions.

Interactive

Use this simulation to adjust the magnitude of the charge and the radius of the Gaussian surface around it. See how this affects the total flux and the magnitude of the electric field at the Gaussian surface.

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