For nearly 30 years, people have been trying to understand how electric fields can work on the human body and its various sensitivities.

    The strength is hard to measure and so you need an understanding of all of the elements involved before making any calculations.

    Below are some basic facts to understanding electric fields. For help with conversions, use this calculator to go from v/m to N/C (and more) with just one click.


    Why convert electric field?

    Electric field strength is typically measured in volts per meter but can be expressed in other units too.

    Ultimately, it depends on the size (or magnitude) of the field that you are working with.

    When converting electric fields, you need a good calculator on your side to whittle down the margin of error.

    Once you have the right measurements, you can make better decisions about projects and the environment they're placed in to ensure maximum efficiency.

    What are electric fields?

    If you understand gravity at all, you're on your way to understanding electric fields.

    Much like how gravity can have a widespread effect over long distances, electric fields can influence things that are far from the source of electricity.

    Sometimes a field is defined as a sphere of influence. Meaning, there is a particular region in which objects are affected by an electrical field.

    There is also a space where this concept is no longer relevant to objects.

    Contact Forces vs. Electric Fields

    Most of the forces we deal with in physics aren't like this.

    They usually consist of what we call "contact forces". When objects touch one another, they exert a certain amount of force that has an impact that is obvious, measurable, and verifiable.

    A bat is swung, hits a ball, which then hits the ground where it makes a sound as it forces air between itself and the ground.

    When we think about electric fields that occur without anything touching, this feels like a more abstract concept.

    It took a long time for early scientists to accept this premise, as clear as it seems today.

    They didn't realize that when two positive charges push away from one another, the effect could be felt or measured and could impact other elements in space.

    The charged particles from one object (or the orbit of the electrons) will start to bend when in the presence of a powerful electrical source.

    Are there different field types?

    Michael Faraday was the first major researcher to recognize the existence of a field. He applied it to electrostatics because of its relationship with the existing research.

    There are two major types of fields, scalar fields and vector fields. They are essentially opposites of one another.

    Scalar Field

    In a scalar field, you'll find a magnitude but no direction.


    Like when you stand near a campfire, you feel the heat, but there's no real sense of direction of where the heat is headed.

    Moving closer and further away from it with a thermometer allows you to see a different temperature, but it's hard to measure where the heat goes.

    Vector Field

    Being able to measure direction is one of the key elements of a vector field.

    In a vector field, you can measure the pull or push from the source of the electrical element. There will be a center of mass toward which another mass will be pushed or pulled.

    Electric fields are vector fields that essentially exist around just about any charge at all, whether it's positive or negative.

    If you put one charge near a second charge, the two fields will touch one another and exert a measurable force.

    The field itself isn't a force, but it exerts a force. When you see a person pushing a sled up a hill, they are exerting a force, but they are not "a force."

    Physicists now have a mathematical method of showing a force transferred over a distance without anything touching another thing.

    How are electric fields measured?

    Detecting and measuring an electric field around a charge is challenging. The best way to do it is to place another charge nearby and measure the reaction.

    Charges that have their own fields will interact in such a way that it will change both charges. In an instant like this, there is no "control", as both elements are impacted.

    Physicists have defined what's called a "test charge" as a perfect charge to be brought near another charge. It's a mathematical figurative that can help measure the source's electric field.

    The test charge would be infinitely small and positively charged. It's math, so it doesn't really have to exist.

    Since it's so infinitesimally small, the size of its electric field would be considered to be no electric field at all.

    The Electric Field Formula

    It can be expressed in the following equation:

    E = F / q

    Where, electric field is the force (F) per quantity of charge (q) on the test charge.

    This is often expressed as N/C (Newtons per Coulomb) or v/m (volts per meter). One N/C is equivalent to one volt per meter.

    1 N/C = 1 v/m

    Are test charges always positive?

    Yes, a test charge is typically positive . This helps to determine the effect of the source being measured, whether positive or negative.

    If the test charge moves toward the source, the source must be negative. If the test charge would be repelled, then it would be positive.

    Test charges are pushed away proportional to the charge of the source. The stronger the electric field is, the further, faster, and more forcefully the test charge is pulled or pushed away.

    Final thoughts?

    One way to think about electric field is to think of similar analogies on the world stage.

    When large and powerful nations are near smaller countries, often the influence and energy from that large country will have an impact on the smaller one.

    As you get further away from that larger nation, you feel its impact less and less until you don't feel it at all.

    This is generally how electrical fields function in relation to objects.

    We hope that this article and our electric field calculator have been useful for you.

    For other great tools and explainers, we encourage you to spend some time browsing through our complete physics section.

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