Open main menu

Wikipedia β

In vector calculus, a vector potential is a vector field whose curl is a given vector field. This is analogous to a scalar potential, which is a scalar field whose gradient is a given vector field.

Formally, given a vector field v, a vector potential is a vector field A such that

Contents

ConsequenceEdit

If a vector field v admits a vector potential A, then from the equality

 

(divergence of the curl is zero) one obtains

 

which implies that v must be a solenoidal vector field.

TheoremEdit

Let

 

be a solenoidal vector field which is twice continuously differentiable. Assume that v(x) decreases sufficiently fast as ||x||→∞. Define

 

Then, A is a vector potential for v, that is,

 

A generalization of this theorem is the Helmholtz decomposition which states that any vector field can be decomposed as a sum of a solenoidal vector field and an irrotational vector field.

NonuniquenessEdit

The vector potential admitted by a solenoidal field is not unique. If A is a vector potential for v, then so is

 

where m is any continuously differentiable scalar function. This follows from the fact that the curl of the gradient is zero.

This nonuniqueness leads to a degree of freedom in the formulation of electrodynamics, or gauge freedom, and requires choosing a gauge.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Fundamentals of Engineering Electromagnetics by David K. Cheng, Addison-Wesley, 1993.