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Electrostatics of Conductors and Dielectrics - Dielectrics or insulators | 12th Physics : Electrostatics

Chapter: 12th Physics : Electrostatics

Dielectrics or insulators

A dielectric is a non-conducting material and has no free electrons.

Dielectrics or insulators

A dielectric is a non-conducting material and has no free electrons. The electrons in a dielectric are bound within the atoms. Ebonite, glass and mica are some examples of dielectrics. When an external electric field is applied, the electrons are not free to move anywhere but they are realigned in a specific way. A dielectric is made up of either polar molecules or non-polar molecules.


Non-polar molecules

A non-polar molecule is one in which centers of positive and negative charges coincide. As a result, it has no permanent dipole moment. Examples of non-polar molecules are hydrogen (H2), oxygen (O2), and carbon dioxide (CO2) etc.

When an external electric field is applied, the centers of positive and negative charges are separated by a small distance which induces dipole moment in the direction of the external electric field. Then the dielectric is said to be polarized by an external electric field. This is shown in Figure 1.50.



Polar molecules

In polar molecules, the centers of the positive and negative charges are separated even in the absence of an external electric field. They have a permanent dipole moment. Due to thermal motion, the direction of each dipole moment is oriented randomly (Figure 1.51(a)). Hence the net dipole moment is zero in the absence of an external electric field. Examples of polar molecules are H2O, N2O, HCl, NH3.

When an external electric field is applied, the dipoles inside the polar molecule tend to align in the direction of the electric field. Hence a net dipole moment is induced in it. Then the dielectric is said to be polarized by an external electric field (Figure 1.51(b)).



Polarisation

In the presence of an external electric field, the dipole moment is induced in the dielectric material. Polarisation P is defined as the total dipole moment per unit volume of the dielectric. For most dielectrics (linear isotropic), the Polarisation is directly proportional to the strength of the external electric field. This is written as


where χe is a constant called the electric susceptibility which is a characteristic of each dielectric.

 

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