Dipole in Uniform & Non-Uniform Electric Field

Dipole in Uniform & Non-Uniform Electric Field | Physics Class 12 - NEET PDF Download

INTRODUCTION TO DIPOLE IN UNIFORM EXTERNAL FIELD
If a dipole is kept in an external electric field, it experiences a rotating effect. By external electric field, we mean electric field that is not induced by dipole itself. The rotating effect is also called torque on the dipole. How we can calculate the torque on a dipole and what are its applications? This can be done by calculating the net torque on opposite charges of the dipole.

Dipole in Uniform External Field
To find torque on a dipole from an external field, consider there is electric dipole placed in an uniform external field. The uniform external electric field is produced externally and is not induced by dipole.

Fig: An electric dipole placed in non-uniform external electric field

The external electric field will produce electric force  on positive charge in upward direction (same direction as and on negative charge in downward direction (opposite direction to).
We can see that the dipole is in transitional equilibrium as net force on the dipole is zero.
What about the rotational equilibrium? Is it also zero? If that was the case, then the dipole would have been stationary in position, but experimentally it is found that the dipole rotates with some angular velocity.
This is because, both the electrostatic force that is,acts a torque in a clockwise direction, thereby making the dipole to rotate in a uniform external electric field.

Fig: Uniform and Non-uniform electric field

Torque always acts in a couple, and its magnitude equals to the product of force and its arm. Arm is the distance between the point where the force acts and the point which rotates the dipole. In the dipole placed in the uniform external electric field, we take origin as the point. Torque is denoted by the symbol and as it has a direction, it is a vector quantity.

Mathematically,
Magnitude of torque = q E × 2a sin θ
τ = 2 q a E sin θ
Since, the dipole moment (p = 2qa)
τ = p E sin θ

The vector form of torque is the cross product of dipole moment and electric field.
To understand what cross product is, let’s take an example.

Fig: Torque rotates the dipole in uniform electric field

The net external force acting on the dipole will be zero, hence it will not translate in space. But the same cannot be said about the net torque on the dipole.
In short,

Whererepresents the dipole moment of the electric dipole andrepresents the external electric field in which the dipole is kept.

Observations in net force and torque
Taking the nature of electric field and position of the dipole, following remarks will come out:

• If the dipoleand external electric field  are parallel, that is, angle between them is zero, then the dipole will feel zero torque. That is, no rotational effect.
• If the external electric field  is non-uniform, then net force on the dipole ≠ 0, and torque will create rotation. Hence, it would be a combined rotational and translational motion.
• If the dipole external electric field  are antiparallel, that is, angle between them is non-zero, then the dipole will feel zero torque.
• When the electric dipole  and electric field  are parallel, the direction of net force will be in direction of increasing electric field.
Fig: Direction of net force depends on orientation of electric dipole
• When the electric dipole  and electric field  are anti-parallel, then the direction of net force will be in direction of decreasing electric field.
• Force and Torque on a dipole placed in a uniform external field  varies with the orientation of dipole in free space

PHYSICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Fig: Comb attract dry paper piece

When we comb our dry hair and bring it near to some paper pieces, we find that the comb attracts the paper pieces. The comb gains charge, from our hair by the process of rubbing and induce a charge in the uncharged paper. In another way, the comb polarizes the pieces of paper that is, generate a net dipole moment in the direction of electric field. Also, since the electric field is non-uniform, the paper pieces move in the direction of the comb.

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FAQs on Dipole in Uniform & Non-Uniform Electric Field - Physics Class 12 - NEET

 1. What is a dipole in an electric field?
A dipole in an electric field refers to a pair of equal and opposite charges separated by a small distance. It is characterized by having a positive charge (denoted as +q) and a negative charge (denoted as -q) with a separation distance (denoted as d) between them. The dipole experiences a torque and a net force when placed in an electric field.
 2. What is the difference between a uniform and non-uniform electric field?
In a uniform electric field, the electric field strength is the same at every point and is directed in the same direction. This means that the electric field lines are parallel and equidistant. On the other hand, in a non-uniform electric field, the electric field strength varies at different points and the electric field lines are not parallel or equidistant.
 3. How does a dipole behave in a uniform electric field?
In a uniform electric field, a dipole experiences a torque that aligns it with the electric field lines. The torque causes the dipole to rotate until it reaches a stable equilibrium position where it aligns itself with the electric field. The net force on the dipole is zero in this position.
 4. What happens to a dipole in a non-uniform electric field?
In a non-uniform electric field, a dipole experiences both a torque and a net force. The torque tends to rotate the dipole and align it with the electric field lines, similar to in a uniform electric field. However, the net force also causes the dipole to move in the direction of the stronger electric field, resulting in translational motion.
 5. Can a dipole experience a net force in a uniform electric field?
No, a dipole does not experience a net force in a uniform electric field. This is because the electric field strength and direction are the same at every point in a uniform electric field, resulting in equal and opposite forces on the positive and negative charges of the dipole. The forces cancel each other out, leading to a net force of zero. However, the dipole still experiences a torque that aligns it with the electric field lines.

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