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volt per meter (V/m)

The standard unit of electric field (E-field) strength is the volt per meter (V/m). An E field of 1 V/m is represented by a potential difference of 1 V existing between two points that are 1 m apart. Reduced to base SI units, 1 V/m is the equivalent of one meter kilogram per second cubed per ampere (m ? kg ? s -3 ? A -1 ).

The volt per meter, or some fractional unit based on it, is used as a means of specifying the intensity of the electromagnetic field (EM field) produced by a radio transmitter. Although an EM field contains a magnetic (M) component as well as an electric (E) component, the relative field strength of radio signals is easier to measure in free space by sampling only the E component. The magnitude of the E component from a distant radio transmitter is often much less than 1 V/m, and in such cases, fractional units are preferred. One millivolt per meter (mV/m) is equal to 10 -3 V/m; one microvolt per meter (? V/m) is equal to 10 -6 V/m; one nanovolt per meter (nV/m) is equal to 10 -9 V/m; one picovolt per meter (pV/m) is equal to 10 -12 V/m.

The magnitude of the E component of a radio wave varies inversely with the distance from the transmitter in a free-space, line-of-sight link. If the distance is doubled, the E-field intensity is cut in half; if the distance increases by a factor of 10, the E-field intensity becomes 1/10 (0.1 times) as great. The E component of an EM field is measured in a single dimension, so the intensity-versus-distance relation is a straight inverse rule, not the inverse-square law.

When expressing the intensity of EM fields at infrared ( IR ), visible, ultraviolet (UV), X-ray, and gamma-ray wavelength s, the watt per meter squared, or one of the fractional units based on it, is more commonly used.

Also see electromagnetic field .

This was last updated in March 2011

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