8. Gauss's Law and Configuration Energy

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Learning Objectives

  • To be able calculate the electric potential given the electric field and to calculate the electric field given the electric potential.
  • To be able to use Gauss's Law to find electric fields and then to find electric potentials in situations with a high degree of symmetry.
  • To be able to describe what is meant by the configuration energy of a given set of charges, and to be able to calculate it in particular situations.


Course Notes

Read through the course notes. The course note files may also contain links to associated animations or interactive simulations.

Read sections 3.5 through 3.9:
Electric Potential (PDF)

Learning Activities

Guided Activities

Read through the class slides. They explain all of the concepts from the module.

Slides (PDF)


Do the Concept Questions first to make sure you understand the main concepts from this module. Then, when you are ready, try the Challenge Problems.

Concept Questions

Concept Questions (PDF)

Solutions (PDF)

Challenge Problems

Challenge Problems (PDF)

Solutions (PDF)

Problem Solving Help

Watch the Problem Solving Help video for insights on how to approach and solve problems related to the concepts in this module.

Problem: The Electric Field and Potential of Conducting Cylindrical Shells Carrying Charge

A long metal cylindrical rod of radius a is surrounded by a thin cylindrical metal shell of radius b. The inner cylinder carries positive charge per unit length λ and the outer shell carries a negative charge per unit length –λ. Calculate the potential everywhere.

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