Edexcel International A Level Physics

Revision Notes

5.35 Comparing Electric & Gravitational Fields

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Comparing Electric & Gravitational Fields

  • The similarities and differences between gravitational and electrostatic forces are listed in the table below:

Table Comparing G and E Fields 

G Fields v E Fields Table 1, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notesG Fields v E Fields Table 2, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notesG Fields v E Fields Table 3, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Similarities between Gravitational & Electric Fields

  • The key similarities are:
    • The magnitude of the gravitational and electrostatic force between two point masses or charges follow inverse square law relationships
    • The field lines around a spherical masses and spherical charges are radial
    • The field lines in a uniform gravitational and electric field are identical (they are parallel and equally spaced)
    • The gravitational field strength and electric field strength both have a 1 over r squared relationship in a radial field
    • The gravitational potential and electric potential both have a 1 over r relationship

Differences between Gravitational & Electric Fields

  • The key differences are:
    • The gravitational force acts on particles with mass whilst the electrostatic force acts on particles with charge
    • The gravitational force is always attractive whilst the electrostatic force can be attractive or repulsive
    • The gravitational potential is always negative whilst the electric potential can be either negative or positive

Exam Tip

This topic could require a long structured-answer, so practice summing up this information as you would for a 6 mark question.

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