# Electric Potential Energy

JoVE Core
Physik
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JoVE Core Physik
Electric Potential Energy

### Nächstes Video24.2: Electric Potential Energy in a Uniform Electric Field

Electric potential energy is the energy required to assemble a system of charged particles from an infinite distance. It is a function of the separation between the charges and the charge on each object in a system.

Consider a system of a negatively charged plate with static charges and a positive test charge. The attractive Coulomb force accelerates the test charge toward the static charge, decreasing the system's potential energy. Here, the movement of the test charge does not alter the electric field of the static charge.

This is similar to the free fall of an object under the influence of a gravitational force.

On the contrary, if a positive test charge moves toward a positively charged plate with static charges, the system's potential energy increases. However, the Coulomb force can be attractive or repulsive, unlike the gravitational force.

The Coulomb force is conservative, hence the work is expressed as a negative potential energy difference. The change in potential energy of the system is compensated by a change in kinetic energy.

## Electric Potential Energy

When an electric field accelerates a free positive charge q, it is given kinetic energy. The process is analogous to an object accelerated by a gravitational field as if the charge were going down an electrical hill where its electric potential energy is converted into kinetic energy. Of course, the sources of the forces are very different. The work done on a charge q by the electric field in this process helps to develop a definition of electric potential energy.

The electrostatic or Coulomb force is conservative, which means that the work done on q is independent of the path taken. This is exactly analogous to the gravitational force. When a force is conservative, it is possible to define the potential energy associated with the force. It is usually easier to work with the potential energy because it depends only on position than to calculate the work directly.

When a conservative force does negative work, the system gains potential energy. But when a conservative force does positive work, the system loses potential energy. For conservative forces, the change in potential energy is compensated by the change in the kinetic energy such that the total energy of the system remains constant.

For the system of like charges, the potential energy of the system decreases when charges move away from each other. On the other hand, for the system of opposite charges, the potential energy of the system decreases when charges move toward each other.