Electric Field between Parallel Plates (Edexcel International A Level Physics)

Revision Note

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Electric Field between Parallel Plates

  • The magnitude of the electric field strength in a uniform field between two charged parallel plates is defined as:

Electric Field Strength Uniform Equation_2

  • Where:
    • E = electric field strength (V m-1)
    • V = potential difference between the plates (V)
    • d = separation between the plates (m)


  • The electric field strength is now defined by the units V m1 
    • Therefore, the units V m–1 are equivalent to the units N C–1
  • The equation shows:
    • The greater the voltage (potential difference) between the plates, the stronger the field
    • The greater the separation between the plates, the weaker the field


  • Remember this equation cannot be used to find the electric field strength around a point charge (since this would be a radial field)
  • The direction of the electric field is from the plate connected to the positive terminal of the cell to the plate connected to the negative terminal

Electric field between two plates, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

The E field strength between two charged parallel plates is the ratio of the potential difference and separation of the plates

  • Note: if one of the parallel plates is earthed, it has a voltage of 0 V

Worked example

Two parallel metal plates are separated by 3.5 cm and have a potential difference of 7.9 kV.

Calculate the electric force acting on a stationary charged particle between the plates that has a charge of 2.6 × 10-15 C.

Step 1: Write down the known values

    • Potential difference, V = 7.9 kV = 7.9 × 103 V
    • Distance between plates, d = 3.5 cm = 3.5 × 10-2 m
    • Charge, Q = 2.6 × 10-15 C

Step 2: Calculate the electric field strength between the parallel plates

Electric Field Strength Uniform Equation_2Electric Field Strength equation Worked Example equation 2

Step 3: Write out the equation for electric force on a charged particle

F = QE

Step 4: Substitute electric field strength and charge into electric force equation

F = QE = (2.6 × 10-15) × (2.257 × 105) = 5.87 × 10-10 N = 5.9 × 10-10 N (2 s.f.)

Exam Tip

Remember the equation for electric field strength with V and d is only used for parallel plates, and not for point charges (where you would use E = F/Q)

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Katie M

Author: Katie M

Katie has always been passionate about the sciences, and completed a degree in Astrophysics at Sheffield University. She decided that she wanted to inspire other young people, so moved to Bristol to complete a PGCE in Secondary Science. She particularly loves creating fun and absorbing materials to help students achieve their exam potential.