What is the relation between ‘Electric Potential’ and ‘Electric Potential Energy’?

  • $\begingroup$ -1: this really shows no prior research effort. $\endgroup$ – Shing Mar 21 '18 at 10:55

What is Electric Potential?

Electric potential (V) is the property of points in space. Electric potential can be defined in several ways:

  1. The value of the electric potential at a point in space numerically gives the amount of work that needs to be done to bring a unit positive charge from infinity to that point.

  2. A charge $q$ is said to have a potential energy of $Vq$ if it is at a point in space which has a potential of $V$.

For example, if you place a charge $q$ at a point, space nearby will have a non-zero value of potential. The electric potential at a point due to a charge at a distance $r$ from it is given by:

$$V = \frac{kq}{r}$$

What is Electric Potential Energy?

Electric potential energy (U) is the property of a system. Two charges in the vicinity of each other are said to have potential energy.

The electric potential energy associated with two charges separated by a distance $r$ is given by: $$U = \frac{kq_1q_2}{r}$$

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ In 1. it isn't always infinity that's the reference point, though it often is with point charges. Electric potential is the amount of work it takes to move a unit positive charge from some reference point to the specified point. $\endgroup$ – probably_someone Jun 20 '17 at 22:38
  • Electric potential energy $U_e$ is the potential energy stored when charges are out of equilibrium (like gravitational potential energy).

  • Electric potential is the same, but per charge, $\frac{U_e}q$. (Useful when comparing different points.)

  • An electric potential difference between two points is called voltage, $V=\frac{U_{e2} }q-\frac{U_{e1}} q$.


Yes there is! First, electric potential is measured in volts ($V$) and electric potential energy is measured in joules ($J$). Now if it sounds familiar is that both tell you about an energy quantity $V=\frac{J}{C}$. Indeed, in electromagnetism, the potential is seen as the electric field, multiplied by the distance between the source (for example a point charge) and the point on which you want to calculate the potential in volts.


protected by ACuriousMind Jun 20 '17 at 22:37

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