Technically potential means work done to move a unit positive charge from one point to another against electrical field but What does potential mean in a capacitor?

  • $\begingroup$ Just what you said! There is an electric field inside the capacitor... $\endgroup$ – valerio May 7 '16 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ It means that work can be done on an electric charge, just like the definition says. That's exactly what we use capacitors for, to do work on charges when we need to. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne May 7 '16 at 12:13

Potential refers to a particular point - or set of points which are "equipotential". So you can talk about the potential of one of the capacitor plates (because each is an equipotential surface) but not the potential of the capacitor (because when charged the $2$ plates are at different potentials).

When talking about a capacitor, potential usually means POTENTIAL DIFFERENCE $V$ between the $2$ plates. This measures the total amount of work $W$ required to charge them to $+Q$ and $-Q$. Charging could be done by bringing charges from infinity in turn onto the plates, or by transferring the charge by some means from one plate to the other across the gap, or by applying a battery which transfers charge from one plate to the other through wire connections. In all three cases, the work done is the same, and the potential difference which is created between the plates is $V=\large{\frac{W}{Q}}$.

The charged capacitor has the "potential" to do work. If a small charge $+dq$ is released from the $+ve$ plate, work $Vdq$ can be extracted by transferring it to the $-ve$ plate. For example, the work can be dissipated in a resistor connected between the plates.


Check out Sir John Rennie's answer on this link for better understanding !!!

What does electric potential mean in a circuit?

As we know, the potential is independent of how the state of a system is achieved, so I concluded potential as work done in bringing a unit positive charge from one end of the battery to the plate/part of the capacitor.This perfectly fits with the idea why we have different potentials for the identical capacitors connected in series and same potential for capacitor in parallel, as capacitance is independent of Q and V and it only depends on geometry and configuration of system.


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