Problem: Electrostatic potential energy. At finite separation distances for two charged particles, Eel  is positive for like charges and negative for opposite charges. As the particles move farther apart, their electrostatic potential energy approaches zero.A positively charged particle and a negatively charged particle are initially far apart. What happens to their electrostatic potential energy as they are brought closer together?

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Opposite charges attract. Similar charges repel


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Problem Details

A graph has separation distance on the X-axis, ranging from 0 to infinity (unscaled).  The Y-axis is electrostatic potential energy, with increasingly negative values below the X-axis and increasingly positive values above the X-axis. The x-axis is equal to 0.  Lines are shown for like charges (repulsion) and opposite chargers (attraction). For like charges, at smaller separation objects experience greater repulsion (higher potential).  As the distance increases, the potential rapidly decreases and is asymptotic to the X-axis: greater separation results in less repulsion (lower potential). For opposite charges, at smaller separation objects experience greater attraction (lower potential).  As the distance increases, the potential rapidly increases and is asymptotic to the X-axis: greater separation results in less attraction (higher or less negative potential).
Electrostatic potential energy. At finite separation distances for two charged particles, Eel  is positive for like charges and negative for opposite charges. As the particles move farther apart, their electrostatic potential energy approaches zero.

A positively charged particle and a negatively charged particle are initially far apart. What happens to their electrostatic potential energy as they are brought closer together?

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Based on our data, we think this problem is relevant for Professor Graham's class at ARIZONA.