How do electric fields accelerate particles?

1 Answer
Aug 14, 2018

Imagine we have a constant electric field:
#vec E = E_0 hat z #

If we have a particle with charge #q#, the force imparted on the particle by interacting with the field is
#vec F = q * vec E = qE_0 hat z #

Using Newtonian definition of acceleration,
#vec a = vec F / m implies ddot x = (q E_0)/m hat z #

So the particle has a constant acceleration in the same or opposite direction as the electric field (depending on the sign of the charge).

If you want maybe a more physical answer, the central question is something more like where does the energy come from? The particle begins at rest but then it accelerates without anything else being reduced. However, in order to keep the field static, we need to put energy into the system since we need to cancel out the particle's electric field itself.