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In physics, **Gauss's law**, also known as **Gauss's flux theorem**, is a law relating the distribution of electric charge to the resulting electric field. The surface under consideration may be a closed one enclosing a volume such as a spherical surface.

**Physics** is the natural science that studies matter and its motion and behavior through space and time and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.

**Electric charge** is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field. There are two types of electric charges; *positive* and *negative*. Like charges repel and unlike attract. An object with an absence of net charge is referred to as *neutral*. Early knowledge of how charged substances interact is now called classical electrodynamics, and is still accurate for problems that do not require consideration of quantum effects.

An **electric field** is a vector field surrounding an electric charge that exerts force on other charges, attracting or repelling them. Mathematically the electric field is a vector field that associates to each point in space the force, called the Coulomb force, that would be experienced per unit of charge by an infinitesimal test charge at that point. The units of the electric field in the SI system are newtons per coulomb (N/C), or volts per meter (V/m). Electric fields are created by electric charges, or by time-varying magnetic fields. Electric fields are important in many areas of physics, and are exploited practically in electrical technology. On an atomic scale, the electric field is responsible for the attractive force between the atomic nucleus and electrons that holds atoms together, and the forces between atoms that cause chemical bonding. Electric fields and magnetic fields are both manifestations of the electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature.

- Qualitative description
- Equation involving the E field
- Integral form
- Differential form
- Equivalence of integral and differential forms
- Equation involving the D field
- Free, bound, and total charge
- Integral form 2
- Differential form 2
- Equivalence of total and free charge statements
- Equation for linear materials
- Interpretations
- In terms of fields of force
- Relation to Coulomb's law
- Deriving Gauss's law from Coulomb's law
- Deriving Coulomb's law from Gauss's law
- See also
- Notes
- Citations
- References
- External links

The law was first^{ [1] } formulated by Joseph-Louis Lagrange in 1773,^{ [2] } followed by Carl Friedrich Gauss in 1813,^{ [3] } both in the context of the attraction of ellipsoids. It is one of Maxwell's four equations, which form the basis of classical electrodynamics.^{ [note 1] } Gauss's law can be used to derive Coulomb's law,^{ [4] } and vice versa.

**Joseph-Louis Lagrange** was an Italian Enlightenment Era mathematician and astronomer. He made significant contributions to the fields of analysis, number theory, and both classical and celestial mechanics.

**Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss** (; German: *Gauß*[ˈkaɐ̯l ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈɡaʊs]; Latin: *Carolus Fridericus Gauss*; was a German mathematician and physicist who made significant contributions to many fields in mathematics and sciences. Sometimes referred to as the *Princeps mathematicorum* and "the greatest mathematician since antiquity", Gauss had an exceptional influence in many fields of mathematics and science, and is ranked among history's most influential mathematicians.

**Maxwell's equations** are a set of partial differential equations that, together with the Lorentz force law, form the foundation of classical electromagnetism, classical optics, and electric circuits. The equations provide a mathematical model for electric, optical, and radio technologies, such as power generation, electric motors, wireless communication, lenses, radar etc. Maxwell's equations describe how electric and magnetic fields are generated by charges, currents, and changes of the fields. One important consequence of the equations is that they demonstrate how fluctuating electric and magnetic fields propagate at the speed of light. Known as electromagnetic radiation, these waves may occur at various wavelengths to produce a spectrum from radio waves to γ-rays. The equations are named after the physicist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell, who between 1861 and 1862 published an early form of the equations that included the Lorentz force law. He also first used the equations to propose that light is an electromagnetic phenomenon.

In words, Gauss's law states that

*The net electric flux through any hypothetical closed surface is equal to **times the net electric charge within that closed surface*.^{ [5] }

In electromagnetism, **electric flux** is the measure of the distribution of the electric field through a given surface, although an electric field in itself cannot flow. It is a way of describing the electric field strength at any distance from the charge causing the field.

Gauss's law has a close mathematical similarity with a number of laws in other areas of physics, such as Gauss's law for magnetism and Gauss's law for gravity. In fact, any inverse-square law can be formulated in a way similar to Gauss's law: for example, Gauss's law itself is essentially equivalent to the inverse-square Coulomb's law, and Gauss's law for gravity is essentially equivalent to the inverse-square Newton's law of gravity.

In physics, **Gauss's law for magnetism** is one of the four Maxwell's equations that underlie classical electrodynamics. It states that the magnetic field **B** has divergence equal to zero, in other words, that it is a solenoidal vector field. It is equivalent to the statement that magnetic monopoles do not exist. Rather than "magnetic charges", the basic entity for magnetism is the magnetic dipole.

In physics, **Gauss's law for gravity**, also known as **Gauss's flux theorem for gravity**, is a law of physics that is essentially equivalent to Newton's law of universal gravitation. It is named after Carl Friedrich Gauss. Although Gauss's law for gravity is equivalent to Newton's law, there are many situations where Gauss's law for gravity offers a more convenient and simple way to do a calculation than Newton's law.

The **inverse-square law**, in physics, is any physical law stating that a specified physical quantity or intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source of that physical quantity. The fundamental cause for this can be understood as geometric dilution corresponding to point-source radiation into three-dimensional space.

The law can be expressed mathematically using vector calculus in integral form and differential form; both are equivalent since they are related by the divergence theorem, also called Gauss's theorem. Each of these forms in turn can also be expressed two ways: In terms of a relation between the electric field **E** and the total electric charge, or in terms of the electric displacement field **D** and the *free* electric charge.^{ [6] }

**Vector calculus**, or **vector analysis**, is a branch of mathematics concerned with differentiation and integration of vector fields, primarily in 3-dimensional Euclidean space The term "vector calculus" is sometimes used as a synonym for the broader subject of multivariable calculus, which includes vector calculus as well as partial differentiation and multiple integration. Vector calculus plays an important role in differential geometry and in the study of partial differential equations. It is used extensively in many disciplines, such as physics, engineering, and machine learning. Example applications include electromagnetic fields, gravitational fields, fluid flow, and backpropagation.

In mathematics, **differential calculus** is a subfield of calculus concerned with the study of the rates at which quantities change. It is one of the two traditional divisions of calculus, the other being integral calculus, the study of the area beneath a curve.

In vector calculus, the **divergence theorem**, also known as **Gauss's theorem** or **Ostrogradsky's theorem**, is a result that relates the flow of a vector field through a surface to the behavior of the tensor field inside the surface.

Gauss's law can be stated using either the electric field **E** or the electric displacement field **D**. This section shows some of the forms with **E**; the form with **D** is below, as are other forms with **E**.

In physics, the **electric displacement field**, denoted by **D**, is a vector field that appears in Maxwell's equations. It accounts for the effects of free and bound charge within materials. "**D**" stands for "displacement", as in the related concept of displacement current in dielectrics. In free space, the electric displacement field is equivalent to flux density, a concept that lends understanding to Gauss's law. In SI, it is expressed in units of coulomb per metre squared (C⋅m^{−2}).

Gauss's law may be expressed as:^{ [6] }

where Φ_{E} is the electric flux through a closed surface S enclosing any volume V, Q is the total charge enclosed within V, and *ε*_{0} is the electric constant. The electric flux Φ_{E} is defined as a surface integral of the electric field:

where **E** is the electric field, d**A** is a vector representing an infinitesimal element of area of the surface,^{ [note 2] } and · represents the dot product of two vectors.

Since the flux is defined as an *integral* of the electric field, this expression of Gauss's law is called the *integral form*.

If the electric field is known everywhere, Gauss's law makes it possible to find the distribution of electric charge: The charge in any given region can be deduced by integrating the electric field to find the flux.

The reverse problem (when the electric charge distribution is known and the electric field must be computed) is much more difficult. The total flux through a given surface gives little information about the electric field, and can go in and out of the surface in arbitrarily complicated patterns.

An exception is if there is some symmetry in the problem, which mandates that the electric field passes through the surface in a uniform way. Then, if the total flux is known, the field itself can be deduced at every point. Common examples of symmetries which lend themselves to Gauss's law include: cylindrical symmetry, planar symmetry, and spherical symmetry. See the article Gaussian surface for examples where these symmetries are exploited to compute electric fields.

By the divergence theorem, Gauss's law can alternatively be written in the *differential form*:

where ∇ · **E** is the divergence of the electric field, ε_{0} is the electric constant, and ρ is the total electric charge density (charge per unit volume).

The integral and differential forms are mathematically equivalent, by the divergence theorem. Here is the argument more specifically.

Outline of proof The integral form of Gauss' law is: for any closed surface S containing charge Q. By the divergence theorem, this equation is equivalent to:

for any volume V containing charge Q. By the relation between charge and charge density, this equation is equivalent to:

for any volume V. In order for this equation to be

*simultaneously true*for*every*possible volume V, it is necessary (and sufficient) for the integrands to be equal everywhere. Therefore, this equation is equivalent to:Thus the integral and differential forms are equivalent.

The electric charge that arises in the simplest textbook situations would be classified as "free charge"—for example, the charge which is transferred in static electricity, or the charge on a capacitor plate. In contrast, "bound charge" arises only in the context of dielectric (polarizable) materials. (All materials are polarizable to some extent.) When such materials are placed in an external electric field, the electrons remain bound to their respective atoms, but shift a microscopic distance in response to the field, so that they're more on one side of the atom than the other. All these microscopic displacements add up to give a macroscopic net charge distribution, and this constitutes the "bound charge".

Although microscopically all charge is fundamentally the same, there are often practical reasons for wanting to treat bound charge differently from free charge. The result is that the more fundamental Gauss's law, in terms of **E** (above), is sometimes put into the equivalent form below, which is in terms of **D** and the free charge only.

This formulation of Gauss's law states the total charge form:

where Φ_{D} is the **D**-field flux through a surface S which encloses a volume V, and *Q*_{free} is the free charge contained in V. The flux Φ_{D} is defined analogously to the flux Φ_{E} of the electric field **E** through S:

The differential form of Gauss's law, involving free charge only, states:

where ∇ · **D** is the divergence of the electric displacement field, and *ρ*_{free} is the free electric charge density.

Proof that the formulations of Gauss's law in terms of free charge are equivalent to the formulations involving total charge. In this proof, we will show that the equation is equivalent to the equation

Note that we are only dealing with the differential forms, not the integral forms, but that is sufficient since the differential and integral forms are equivalent in each case, by the divergence theorem.

We introduce the polarization density

**P**, which has the following relation to**E**and**D**:and the following relation to the bound charge:

Now, consider the three equations:

The key insight is that the sum of the first two equations is the third equation. This completes the proof: The first equation is true by definition, and therefore the second equation is true if and only if the third equation is true. So the second and third equations are equivalent, which is what we wanted to prove.

In homogeneous, isotropic, nondispersive, linear materials, there is a simple relationship between **E** and **D**:

where ε is the permittivity of the material. For the case of vacuum (aka free space), *ε* = *ε*_{0}. Under these circumstances, Gauss's law modifies to

for the integral form, and

for the differential form.

This section may contain content that is repetitive or redundant of text elsewhere in the article. Please help improve it by merging similar text or removing repeated statements. (September 2016) |

Gauss's theorem can be interpreted in terms of the lines of force of the field as follows:

The flux through a closed surface is dependent upon both the magnitude and direction of the electric field lines penetrating the surface. In general a positive flux is defined by these lines leaving the surface and negative flux by lines entering this surface. This results in positive charges causing a positive flux and negative charges creating a negative flux. These electric field lines will extend to infinite decreasing in strength by a factor of one over the distance form the source of the charge squared. The larger the number of field lines emanating from a charge the larger the magnitude of the charge is, and the closer together the field lines are the greater the magnitude of the electric filed. This has the natural result of the electric field becoming weaker as one moves away from a charged particle, but the surface area also increases so that the net electric field exiting this particle will stay the same. In other words the closed integral of the electric field and the dot product of the derivative of the area will equal the net charge enclosed divided by permittivity of free space.

Strictly speaking, Gauss's law cannot be derived from Coulomb's law alone, since Coulomb's law gives the electric field due to an individual point charge only. However, Gauss's law *can* be proven from Coulomb's law if it is assumed, in addition, that the electric field obeys the superposition principle. The superposition principle says that the resulting field is the vector sum of fields generated by each particle (or the integral, if the charges are distributed smoothly in space).

Outline of proof Coulomb's law states that the electric field due to a stationary point charge is: where

**e**_{r}is the radial unit vector,- r is the radius, |
**r**|, *ε*_{0}is the electric constant,- q is the charge of the particle, which is assumed to be located at the origin.

Using the expression from Coulomb's law, we get the total field at

**r**by using an integral to sum the field at**r**due to the infinitesimal charge at each other point**s**in space, to givewhere ρ is the charge density. If we take the divergence of both sides of this equation with respect to

**r**, and use the known theorem^{ [8] }where

*δ*(**r**) is the Dirac delta function, the result isUsing the "sifting property" of the Dirac delta function, we arrive at

which is the differential form of Gauss' law, as desired.

Note that since Coulomb's law only applies to stationary charges, there is no reason to expect Gauss's law to hold for moving charges based on this derivation alone. In fact, Gauss's law does hold for moving charges, and in this respect Gauss's law is more general than Coulomb's law.

Strictly speaking, Coulomb's law cannot be derived from Gauss's law alone, since Gauss's law does not give any information regarding the curl of **E** (see Helmholtz decomposition and Faraday's law). However, Coulomb's law *can* be proven from Gauss's law if it is assumed, in addition, that the electric field from a point charge is spherically symmetric (this assumption, like Coulomb's law itself, is exactly true if the charge is stationary, and approximately true if the charge is in motion).

Outline of proof Taking S in the integral form of Gauss' law to be a spherical surface of radius r, centered at the point charge Q, we have By the assumption of spherical symmetry, the integrand is a constant which can be taken out of the integral. The result is

where

**r̂**is a unit vector pointing radially away from the charge. Again by spherical symmetry,**E**points in the radial direction, and so we getwhich is essentially equivalent to Coulomb's law. Thus the inverse-square law dependence of the electric field in Coulomb's law follows from Gauss' law.

- ↑ The other three of Maxwell's equations are: Gauss' law for magnetism, Faraday's law of induction, and "Ampère"'s law with Maxwell's correction
- ↑ More specifically, the infinitesimal area is thought of as planar and with area d
*A*. The vector d**A**is normal to this area element and has magnitude d*A*.^{ [7] }

- ↑ Duhem, Pierre.
*Leçons sur l'électricité et le magnétisme*(in French). vol. 1, ch. 4, p. 22–23. shows that Lagrange has priority over Gauss. Others after Gauss discovered "Gauss' Law", too. - ↑ Lagrange, Joseph-Louis (1773). "Sur l'attraction des sphéroïdes elliptiques".
*Mémoires de l'Académie de Berlin*(in French): 125. - ↑ Gauss, Carl Friedrich.
*Theoria attractionis corporum sphaeroidicorum ellipticorum homogeneorum methodo nova tractata*(in Latin). (Gauss,*Werke*, vol. V, p. 1). Gauss mentions Newton's*Principia*proposition XCI regarding finding the force exerted by a sphere on a point anywhere along an axis passing through the sphere. - ↑ Halliday, David; Resnick, Robert (1970).
*Fundamentals of Physics*. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 452–453. - ↑ Serway, Raymond A. (1996).
*Physics for Scientists and Engineers with Modern Physics*(4th ed.). p. 687. - 1 2 Grant, I. S.; Phillips, W. R. (2008).
*Electromagnetism*. Manchester Physics (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-92712-9. - ↑ Matthews, Paul (1998).
*Vector Calculus*. Springer. ISBN 3-540-76180-2. - ↑ See, for example, Griffiths, David J. (2013).
*Introduction to Electrodynamics*(4th ed.). Prentice Hall. p. 50.

**Flux** describes any effect that appears to pass or travel through a surface or substance. A flux is either a concept based in physics or used with applied mathematics. Both concepts have mathematical rigor, enabling comparison of the underlying mathematics when the terminology is unclear. For transport phenomena, flux is a vector quantity, describing the magnitude and direction of the flow of a substance or property. In electromagnetism, flux is a scalar quantity, defined as the surface integral of the component of a vector field perpendicular to the surface at each point.

In electromagnetism, **absolute permittivity**, often simply called **permittivity**, usually denoted by the Greek letter ε (epsilon), is the measure of capacitance that is encountered when forming an electric field in a particular medium. More specifically, permittivity describes the amount of charge needed to generate one unit of electric flux in a particular medium. Accordingly, a charge will yield more electric flux in a medium with low permittivity than in a medium with high permittivity. Permittivity is the measure of a material's ability to store an electric field in the polarization of the medium.

An **electric potential** is the amount of work needed to move a unit of positive charge from a reference point to a specific point inside the field without producing an acceleration. Typically, the reference point is the Earth or a point at infinity, although any point beyond the influence of the electric field charge can be used.

In physics, specifically electromagnetism, the **magnetic flux** through a surface is the surface integral of the normal component of the magnetic field **B** passing through that surface. The SI unit of magnetic flux is the weber (Wb), and the CGS unit is the maxwell. Magnetic flux is usually measured with a fluxmeter, which contains measuring coils and electronics, that evaluates the change of voltage in the measuring coils to calculate the magnetic flux.

In physics, **screening** is the damping of electric fields caused by the presence of mobile charge carriers. It is an important part of the behavior of charge-carrying fluids, such as ionized gases, electrolytes, and charge carriers in electronic conductors . In a fluid, with a given permittivity *ε*, composed of electrically charged constituent particles, each pair of particles interact through the Coulomb force as

In mathematics, **Poisson's equation** is a partial differential equation of elliptic type with broad utility in mechanical engineering and theoretical physics. It arises, for instance, to describe the potential field caused by a given charge or mass density distribution; with the potential field known, one can then calculate gravitational or electrostatic field. It is a generalization of Laplace's equation, which is also frequently seen in physics. The equation is named after the French mathematician, geometer, and physicist Siméon Denis Poisson.

**Electrostatics** is a branch of physics that studies electric charges at rest.

**Classical electromagnetism** or **classical electrodynamics** is a branch of theoretical physics that studies the interactions between electric charges and currents using an extension of the classical Newtonian model. The theory provides a description of electromagnetic phenomena whenever the relevant length scales and field strengths are large enough that quantum mechanical effects are negligible. For small distances and low field strengths, such interactions are better described by quantum electrodynamics.

In classical electromagnetism, **polarization density** is the vector field that expresses the density of permanent or induced electric dipole moments in a dielectric material. When a dielectric is placed in an external electric field, its molecules gain electric dipole moment and the dielectric is said to be polarized. The electric dipole moment induced per unit volume of the dielectric material is called the electric polarization of the dielectric.

In classical electromagnetism, **reciprocity** refers to a variety of related theorems involving the interchange of time-harmonic electric current densities (sources) and the resulting electromagnetic fields in Maxwell's equations for time-invariant linear media under certain constraints. Reciprocity is closely related to the concept of Hermitian operators from linear algebra, applied to electromagnetism.

The **Coulomb constant**, the **electric force constant**, or the **electrostatic constant** (denoted *k*_{e}, *k* or *K*) is a proportionality constant in electrodynamics equations. In SI units, it is exactly equal to 8987551787.3681764 N·m^{2}·C^{−2}, or roughly equaling 8.99×10^{9} N·m^{2}·C^{−2}. It was named after the French physicist Charles-Augustin de Coulomb (1736–1806) who introduced Coulomb's law.

A **Gaussian surface** is a closed surface in three-dimensional space through which the flux of a vector field is calculated; usually the gravitational field, the electric field, or magnetic field. It is an arbitrary closed surface *S* = ∂*V* used in conjunction with Gauss's law for the corresponding field by performing a surface integral, in order to calculate the total amount of the source quantity enclosed; e.g., amount of gravitational mass as the source of the gravitational field or amount of electric charge as the source of the electrostatic field, or vice versa: calculate the fields for the source distribution.

The **gradient theorem**, also known as the **fundamental theorem of calculus for line integrals**, says that a line integral through a gradient field can be evaluated by evaluating the original scalar field at the endpoints of the curve.

There are various **mathematical descriptions of the electromagnetic field** that are used in the study of electromagnetism, one of the four fundamental interactions of nature. In this article, several approaches are discussed, although the equations are in terms of electric and magnetic fields, potentials, and charges with currents, generally speaking.

- Jackson, John David (1998).
*Classical Electrodynamics*(3rd ed.). New York: Wiley. ISBN 0-471-30932-X. David J. Griffiths (6th ed.)

- MIT Video Lecture Series (30 x 50 minute lectures)- Electricity and Magnetism Taught by Professor Walter Lewin.
- section on Gauss's law in an online textbook
- MISN-0-132
*Gauss's Law for Spherical Symmetry*(PDF file) by Peter Signell for Project PHYSNET. - MISN-0-133
*Gauss's Law Applied to Cylindrical and Planar Charge Distributions*(PDF file) by Peter Signell for Project PHYSNET.

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