 Application Center - Maplesoft

# Classroom Tips and Techniques: Electric Field from Distributed Charge

You can switch back to the summary page by clicking here. Classroom Tips and Techniques: Electric Field from Distributed Charge

Robert J. Lopez

Emeritus Professor of Mathematics and Maple Fellow
Maplesoft

Introduction

This past summer I was asked if Maple could replicate and complete a solution of the following electrostatics problem.

 A line charge of density is on the -axis, , in meters.  Find everywhere in free space; is the electric field expressed in cylindrical coordinates.

The solution to be replicated is summarized in Table 1.

Cylindrical symmetry about the -axis implies the field is determined by its values in a plane, taken, for example, as the -plane.  With r as the position vector in , and as the location of the charge, the electric field is given by where represents the path of integration along the line of charge.  Since the line charge is constant along the line, we have .  The free-space assumption implies .  Symmetry implies .  Hence and With the charge distribution given by for , we then have .  Consequently, we have      Table 1  Typewritten solution of given electrostatics problem

In the following sections, Maple solutions of this problem are given, one using the VectorCalculus package, and one using the Physics package.  In each case, the integrals giving the electric field are evaluated.  The electric field vectors are graphed, and field lines are calculated and displayed.  Thus, the ability of Maple to enhance a pedagogical experience is amply manifest.

Maple Solutions

Solution in the VectorCalculus Package

 >    >

Use of the VectorCalculus package has three advantages.  First, you can control the appearance of vectors with the BasisFormat command.  The default setting causes vectors to be displayed as linear combinations of basis vectors.  The setting chosen here causes vectors to be displayed as column vectors.  To make the change, change "true" to  "false" in the BasisFormat command.

Second, the Norm command defaults to the Euclidean norm and all quantities are treated as real.  At top level, the vectors would also appear as columns, but the available vector norm would treat quantities as complex, and complex conjugates and absolute values would then appear.

Third, the int command is modified.  At top level, int represents integration in a single variable, and does not automatically map to the components of a vector.  In VectorCalculus, int can be used to represent iterated (multiple) integrals, and also maps automatically to vectors.

Because Maple understands the prime as a differentiation operator, it's a lot of work to over-ride the prime and use it strictly as notation. Hence, R will be used for , and for .  With these conventions, make the following definitions.

 > `(x, 0, z)); -1" align="center" border="0">    >

The integrand will then be

 >  >

The electric field vector is then

 >      >

Notice that Maple has evaluated the integral and returned the electric field as a vector.

Setting and calling by the name gives the cylindrically symmetric solution obtained in Table 1.

 >      >

The reader should pay particular attention to a notational issue not obvious without comment.  The name has been assigned a vector as its value.  Ordinarily, this would persist in the substitution made into E.  To avoid this clash, we have converted to an "atomic identifier" via Context Menu: 2-D Math≻Convert To≻Atomic Identifier.  The symbol is now seen by Maple as a name distinct from r.

 >

Graphics

Figure 1 provides a graph of the electric field as a collection of arrows.   Figure 1   The electric field in Figure 2 shows the electric field restricted to the -plane.  Figure 2   The electric field drawn in the -plane

To obtain field lines, solve the differential equations .  The dependent variables in EE must explicitly be functions of the independent variable .  Thus, write

 > >

then obtain numeric solutions and a graph with the DEplot command, as shown in Figure 3.    Figure 3   Field plot of the electric field, along with several field lines.

 >

Solution in the Physics Package

An alternative solution in the Physics package displays the unit basis vectors as , and vectors that are linear combinations of these vectors as symbols with an arrow superimposed.

 > >  >

Define the position vector as and the vector as by typing

 > r_ := x*_i + z*_k; R_ := Z*_k;

 >

and converting this text input to 2-D Math Input via the Format≻Convert To menu options.  The result will be

 >      >

so that the integrand is

 >  >

The electric field vector is then

 >     >

The components of the electric field vector can be extracted as

 >   >

and

 >  >

Legal Notice: ? Maplesoft, a division of Waterloo Maple Inc. 2009. Maplesoft and Maple are trademarks of Waterloo Maple Inc. This application may contain errors and Maplesoft is not liable for any damages resulting from the use of this material. This application is intended for non-commercial, non-profit use only. Contact Maplesoft for permission if you wish to use this application in for-profit activities.