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Electric Field Due to a Line of Charge

Experiment #27 from Physics with Video Analysis

Education Level
High School


Consider a thin insulated rod that carries a known negative charge Qrod that is uniformly distributed. It is possible to determine the electric field along a line perpendicular to the rod that passes through its center using the following equation – often derived in introductory texts:

\vec E_{{\text{rod}}}^{{\text{theory}}} = \frac{{\left( {k{Q_{{\text{rod}}}}} \right)}}  {{r\sqrt {{r^2} + {{(L/2)}^2}} }}\hat i

where L is the length of the charged part of the rod, r is the distance from the test charge to the center of the charged part of the rod, and Qrod is its total charge. The constant k is the well-known Coulomb constant.


In this activity, you will

  • Examine a digital movie of a charged rod exerting a force on a hanging “test charge” along with a Logger Pro analysis to determine if the theoretical equation describes the relationship between r, L and the measured electric field, \vec E_{{\text{rod}}}^{{\text{meas}}} at the location of the test charge.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following sensors and equipment. Additional equipment may be required.

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This experiment is #27 of Physics with Video Analysis. The experiment in the book includes student instructions as well as instructor information for set up, helpful hints, and sample graphs and data.

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