Electromagnetic Force – is the force between charged particles


Electromagnetic Force – Electromagnetic force is the force between charged particles. In the simpler case when charges are at rest, the force is given by Coulomb’s law : attractive for unlike charges and repulsive for like charges. Charges in motion produce magnetic effects and a magnetic field gives rise to a force on a moving charge. Electric and magnetic effects are, in general, inseparable – hence the name electromagnetic force. Like the gravitational force, electromagnetic force acts over large distances and does not need any intervening medium. It is enormously strong compared to gravity. The electric force between two protons, for example, is 1036[ten power of 36] times the gravitational force between them, for any fixed distance.

                Matter, as we know, consists of elementary charged constituents like electrons and protons. Since the electromagnetic force is so much stronger than the gravitational force, it dominates all phenomena at atomic and molecular scales. (The other two forces, as we shall see, operate only at nuclear scales.) Thus it is mainly the electromagnetic force that governs the structure of atoms and molecules, the dynamics of chemical reactions and the mechanical, thermal and other properties of materials. It underlies the macroscopic forces like ‘tension’, ‘friction’, ‘normal force’, ‘spring force’, etc.


                Gravity is always attractive, while electromagnetic force can be attractive or repulsive. Another way of putting it is that mass comes only in one variety (there is no negative mass), but charge comes in two varieties: positive and negative charge. This is what makes all the difference. Matter is mostly electrically neutral (net charge is zero). Thus, electric force is largely zero and gravitational force dominates terrestrial phenomena.



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