Electric fields are regions where non-contact electrical forces can be felt by charged objects. They are generated by electrical charges.
Field lines show the path a positive test charge would take from positive to negative. The closer they are, the stronger the field. Lines never stop in empty space and must never cross. Field lines go from positive to negative, so the point charge below is negative:
Uniformly charged spheres can be modelled as a point charge at its centre, with field lines leaving/entering at right angles all around, to infinity. Closer to the point, you can see that the field lines are closer together. Therefore, the field strength must be greater.
In all radial fields, the field strength is proportional to the distance from the point charge via an inverse square law.
Electric field strength is force per unit charge:
E = F/Q Electric field strength = Force / Charge
The units of electric field strength and newtons per coulomb, N/C
The attractive/repulsive force between two point charges can be calculated using Coulomb's law:
F = Qq / 4πε₀r² Force = Product of two charges / 4π x ε₀ x separation²
ε₀ is the permittivity of free space, and can be taken as 8.85 E-12.
Since electric field strength is calculated as E = F/Q, coulomb's law can be used to calculate field strength of a point charge by dividing by one charge:
F = Q / 4πε₀r² Force = Charge / 4π x ε₀ x separation²
Electric vs Gravitational Fields
Newton's law of gravitation is very similar to coulomb's law, and the fields have many other similarities, too. However, there are some differences.