Electric field

The electric field is any spatial area where the electric charges, which can be positive or negative, are related in a certain space limit, being the electric field both the delimitation of the space in the plane and the space of a body charged with electricity. It is not measurable in itself, but what is measured is the effect generated by electric charges inside. In 1832, Faraday proposed the idea of the electric field in greater depth to demonstrate the principle of electromagnetic induction.

Electric field

Related Topics

Electric charge, electrostatic field, magnetic field

What is an electric field?

The electric field is defined as the space sector designated from the electric force, which is made up of two or more charges. The direction taken by the electric field is influenced by the force direction it will exert on a positive charge. It is generated radially towards the outside of a positive charge and radially towards the inside of being a point charge.


Characteristics of electric field

Electric fields must have the following characteristics for proper operation:


For the understanding of electricity operation during the 18th century, researches such as Coulomb’s, focus on electricity and its internal and external functioning and its handling in everyday use. It was established that electric charges could interact at the distance between them, as well as masses against gravitational forces. That is to say, that a mass or a charge could inexplicably, without any mediator, notice the presence of another in its surroundings.

Faraday proposes an alternative interpretation, which will be very useful, contributing to the idea of the electric field, the proposal that: the space surrounding an electric charge is affected by its presence, since it modifies its characteristics. In one of his attempts to test his approach, Faraday describes it as invisible tentacles advancing from an electric charge.

In this way, from the moment a body acquires a charge, this information spreads rapidly in its environment, in fact, at the speed of light, and can eventually reach another charge. Subsequently, the interaction between one charge and another is discussed, as it is possible to describe and study the fact from the interaction of charges in the field where it interacts.

In order to represent the electric field, the force lines are used, which would be the vectors that leave the positive electric charges to enter the negative charges. In this way, the direction of the force of the electric field is indicated, which in turn would experiment a punctual and positive charge, called the test charge. The number of force lines would be proportional to the intensity of the electric field, since when counting on the interaction lines they are very close, the field is large and where they are separated, the field is small.

Researchers such as Michael Faraday, and later studies by James Clerk Maxwell, allowed the first descriptions of electrical phenomena, for example, Coulomb’s law, where only electrical charges were taken into account; to then develop more complete laws where field variation is studied.

What is an electric field for?

The electric field serves to highlight the interaction of charged particles, and to determine the force on a charge located at that point.

Electric field units

The unit of measurement for electric field strength or magnitude is used in volts per meter (v/m).

The Coulomb law can be used in the case of electric fields, because it establishes how the force is between two punctual electric charges, being a punctual electric charge, the charge that is located at a geometric point at a spatial level. Remembering that it would be used in specific cases, given that these charges must be at rest, generating electrostatics. This law studies the interaction between electrical charges that are particularly small compared to the distance between them.



The formula for calculating the electric field is as follows:

Formula of the electric field

Where E is Electric field strength, F is Strength and q is Load.


There are three types of electric fields. The first is produced by a charge distribution and is known as an electrostatic field. The second and third are associated with two types of magnetic induction, one produced by spatial movement with respect to the magnetic flux and the other produced by the bonding time that modifies the magnetic flux.

Uniform electric field

The electric field consists of the space zone where the electric charges interact, being these of the same magnitude, sense and direction. For example, by having two charged parallel plates, the electric field will be oriented from the plate with a positive electric charge to the plate with a negative charge, generating that the vector does not change.


Written by Gabriela Briceño V.

How to cite this article?

Briceño V., Gabriela. (2019). Electric field. Recovered on 24 February, 2024, de Euston96:

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