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potential, electric, work per unit of electric charge expended in moving a charged body from a reference point to any given point in an electric field (see electrostatics). The potential at the reference point is considered to be zero, and the reference point itself is usually chosen to be at infinity. It can be shown that the potential associated with a charged body at a given point in a static electric field is independent of the path along which the body has traveled in passing from infinity to the given point. Potential is measured in volts and is sometimes called voltage.

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Licensed from Columbia University Press

Licensed from Columbia University Press

- The mathematical study of potentials is known as potential theory; it is the study of harmonic functions on manifolds. This mathematical formulation arises from the fact that, in physics, the scalar potential is irrotational, and thus has a vanishing Laplacian — the very definition of a harmonic function.
- In physics, a potential may refer to the scalar potential or to the vector potential. In either case, it is a field defined in space, from which many important physical properties may be derived.
- Leading examples are the gravitational potential and the electric potential, from which the motion of gravitating or electrically charged bodies may be obtained.
- Specific forces have associated potentials, including the Coulomb potential, the van der Waals potential, the Lennard-Jones potential and the Yukawa potential.
- In electrochemistry there are Galvani potential and Volta potential.

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Last updated on Wednesday September 24, 2008 at 14:35:33 PDT (GMT -0700)

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