Chapter 2

Maxwell's equations

Charge of a capacitor and energy review

Take 15 minutes to prepare this exercise.

Then, if you lack ideas to begin, look at the given clue and start searching for the solution.

A detailed solution is then proposed to you.

If you have more questions, feel free to ask them on the forum.

Let us model a plane capacitor by two metal discs of radius .

They are parallel and separated by a distance .

The upper disc has a charge and the other has a charge .

We suppose (border effects are neglected).

The capacitor is charged by a time-dependent exterior current .

The capacitance is :

Charge of a capacitor and energy review


Show that the electric field inside the capacitor is :



The electric field outside a capacitor is equal to zero.

Let M be a point located between the two frames.

If the two frames are considered infinite, the electric potential only depends on variable , being . The electric field is oriented by (Oz) axis.

Poisson's equation :

The density of charge is equal to zero between the two frames.

Hence the potential is a linear function of , and the electric field is constant between the two frames.

In order to use Gauss' law, let's choose a cylinder of vertical axis (Oz).

Its upper base, of same surface as the two frames, crosses point M. Its lower base is located under the inferior frame, where the electric field is equal to zero.

Gauss' law :

Thus :

The field is thus equal to :


Show that a magnetic field appears. We will suppose that it can be expressed by :

Determine it as a function of , and using one of Maxwell's equations.



Local equation of Maxwell-Ampere :

In the absence of volume currents inside the capacitor, this equation becomes :

Hence, the existence of an electric field which depends on time explains the presence of a magnetic field inside the capacitor.

The source of the magnetic field is the displacement currents which correspond to the variation of the electric field over time.

The magnetic field belongs to the anti-symmetry planes of the distribution which hold point M.

It is also perpendicular to the other symmetry planes which hold point M, as for instance the plane : hence it is carried by .

Because of the cylindrical symmetry, the problem is invariant by rotation around axis : the field is thus independent of :

Stokes' theorem :

Let's compute the magnetic field in a point inside the capacitor.

By applying Stokes theorem to a circle of radius and oriented like :

Thus, inside the capacitor :


Compute Poynting's vector. Evaluate its flux entering the capacitor.

Interpret the results.



Poynting's vector is :

Poynting's vector is oriented towards the inside of the capacitor.

Indeed, the energy goes inside the capacitor which is charging.

The flux of Poynting's vector through the lateral surface of the capacitor is :

Hence :

The capacity of the plane capacitor is :

By noticing that :

Finally :

Is similar in this expression :

Is the energy stored by a capacitor during its charge.

The previous equation can be written as :

The power that enters the capacitor is given by Poynting's vector.

It corresponds indeed to the electric power received by the capacitor during its charge.

It could also have been evaluated in a classical manner with electro-kinetic laws.

Additionnal exercises
To test the understanding of the lesson