Are Electric Field Lines Perpendicular? 7 Complete Facts

Electric field is a physical quantity which encompasses the electrically charged particles in a system. Let us discuss whether electric field lines are perpendicular or not.

Electric field lines are regarded to be always perpendicular to the conducting surface irrespective of shape. Since the electric field lines do not cross, they appear to be at a right angle to the conducting surface. The electric field acts as a physical force on the charges.

In this article we shall see the different aspects of electric field lines, such as why are electric field lines perpendicular to equipotential lines, why are electric field lines always perpendicular, is electric field perpendicular to charge and the direction of electric field lines.

Why are electric field lines perpendicular to equipotential lines?

Electric field lines are the pictorial view of the electric field in a conducting system. Let us see why electric field lines are perpendicular to equipotential lines.

The electric field lines are perpendicular to equipotential lines because they are always pointed radially outward from the charge present in the system. The electric field lines in the equipotential surface extend radially outward for positives and cease the negative charge by pushing or pulling them in one direction or the other.

In order to prevent continuous flow of charges in an equipotential system, the electric field lines at the conducting surface are always perpendicular to the equipotential lines and always proportionate to the surface charge density.

Why are electric field lines always perpendicular?

When a positive charge comes into direct contact with the test charge. Let’s talk about the reason why electric field lines are perpendicular.

The electric field lines are always perpendicular because of the electron movement in the conducting surface. The electron’s ability to remain intact is due to the field lines, and the force created by the electric field acting along the line.

If there is another component along the conducting surface, there will be electric potential along the surface, causing current to flow, and the electric field lines must always be perpendicular to maintain the surface in a steady state mode.

Is electric field perpendicular to charge?

In terms of positive point charge, the distribution is spherical in three dimensions. Let us now discuss whether electric field is perpendicular to charge or not.

The electric field lines are perpendicular to charge because the electric field exerts some force on the charges already existing in the system. Since there is an imbalance in the force applied, the charges migrate, resulting in surface currents.

Hence, the electric field lines must be perpendicular to the conducting surface in order to prevent such erratic movements of the charges inside the system as a result of the force applied to them.

Image Credit: Electric field lines by Geek3 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

What is the direction of electric field lines?

Electric field lines are simply the direction that a positive charge would move in an open space if allowed. Let us now understand the direction of electric field lines.

The direction of the electric field lines is described by the charges present in the system. The electric field lines are always directed radially outward and are directed radially towards the negative charge.

Electric field lines are simply the imaginary lines which describe the direction of the electric field. The electric field of a positive charge in space is represented by the electric field lines.

Conclusion

Electric field lines are regarded to originated from the positive point charge and they do not intersect at any point of time. Electric field lines are those lines that are drawn so that the direction of the net field is determined by the tangent to any point on the line. Electric field lines are always perpendicular in order to balance the force exerted by the electric field on the point charge.

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