What are the properties of electric field lines?

Properties of Electric Field Lines:

  • (i) No field line originates or terminates in the space surrounding a charge. Every field line is a continuous and smooth curve originating from a positive charge and ending on a negative charge.
  • (ii) Field lines do not cross each other because if they do, as at the point P in Fig then two tangents can be drawn at the point of intersection, one to each field line. This means that electric intensity at such a point has two directions, which is not possible.
  • (iii) Wherever the field lines are:

Closer together, the field is strong.

  • Wherever the field lines are

(a) Far apart, the field is weak, which is the case when the field is non-uniform.

(b) parallel and equally spaced, the field is uniform.

  • (iv) Field lines do not pass through the conductor. This indicates that the electric field within the conductor is zero.
  • (v) The field lines are perpendicular to the surface of the conductor. Had it been not so, there would have been a component of the field along the surface of the conductor and a current would flow through it. But no current flows in such an electrostatic situation. Thus, the electric field just outside the surface of the conductor is perpendicular to its surface.
  • (vi) There exists a longitudinal tension in the field lines. It is this tension that explains attraction between two, unlike charges.
  • (vii) The field lines exert lateral pressure on each other. It is this lateral pressure that accounts for the repulsion between two like charges.

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