Friday, March 8, 2013
Magnetic field of an infinite solenoid
INSIDE: In short: the magnetic field inside an infinitely long solenoid is homogeneous and its strength does not depend on the distance from the axis, nor on the solenoid cross-sectional area. This is a derivation of the magnetic flux density around a solenoid that is long enough so that fringe effects can be ignored. In the diagram to the right, we immediately know that the flux density vector points in the positive z direction inside the solenoid, and in the negative z direction outside the solenoid. We see this by applying the right hand grip rule for the field around a wire. If we wrap our right hand around a wire with the thumb pointing in the direction of the current, the curl of the fingers shows how the field behaves. Since we are dealing with a long solenoid, all of the components of the magnetic field not pointing upwards cancel out by symmetry. Outside, a similar cancellation occurs, and the field is only pointing downwards. Now consider the imaginary loop c that is located inside the solenoid. By Ampère's law, we know that the line integral of B (the magnetic flux density vector) around this loop is zero, since it encloses no electrical currents (it can be also assumed that the circuital electric field passing through the loop is constant under such conditions: a constant or constantly changing current through the solenoid). We have shown above that the field is pointing upwards inside the solenoid, so the horizontal portions of loop c doesn't contribute anything to the integral. Thus the integral of the up side 1 is equal to the integral of the down side 2. Since we can arbitrarily change the dimensions of the loop and get the same result, the only physical explanation is that the integrands are actually equal, that is, the magnetic field inside the solenoid is radially uniform. Note, though, that nothing prohibits it from varying longitudinally, which in fact it does. OUTSIDE: A similar argument can be applied to the loop a to conclude that the field outside the solenoid is radially uniform or constant. This last result, which holds strictly true only near the center of the solenoid where the field lines are parallel to its length, is important in as much as it shows that the flux density outside is practically zero since the radii of the field outside the solenoid will tend to infinity. An intuitive argument can also be used to show that the flux density outside the solenoid is actually zero. Magnetic field lines only exist as loops, they cannot diverge from or converge to a point like electric field lines can (see Gauss's law for magnetism). The magnetic field lines follow the longitudinal path of the solenoid inside, so they must go in the opposite direction outside of the solenoid so that the lines can form a loop. However, the volume outside the solenoid is much greater than the volume inside, so the density of magnetic field lines outside is greatly reduced. Now recall that the field outside is constant. In order for the total number of field lines to be conserved, the field outside must go to zero as the solenoid gets longer.