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When the external electric field applied to a dielectric is very large, it tears the atoms apart so that the bound charges become free charges. Then the dielectric starts to conduct electricity. This is called dielectric breakdown. The maximum electric field the dielectric can withstand before it breakdowns is called dielectric strength. For example, the dielectric strength of air is 3 √ó 106 V m-1. If the applied electric field increases beyond this, a spark is produced in the air. The dielectric strengths of some dielectrics are given in the Table 1.1.
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