Concept

# Magnetic vector potential

Summary
In classical electromagnetism, magnetic vector potential (often called A) is the vector quantity defined so that its curl is equal to the magnetic field: . Together with the electric potential φ, the magnetic vector potential can be used to specify the electric field E as well. Therefore, many equations of electromagnetism can be written either in terms of the fields E and B, or equivalently in terms of the potentials φ and A. In more advanced theories such as quantum mechanics, most equations use potentials rather than fields. Magnetic vector potential was first introduced by Franz Ernst Neumann and Wilhelm Eduard Weber in 1845 and in 1846, respectively. William Thomson also introduced vector potential in 1847, along with the formula relating it to the magnetic field. The magnetic vector potential A is a vector field, defined along with the electric potential φ (a scalar field) by the equations: where B is the magnetic field and E is the electric field. In magnetostatics where there is no time-varying charge distribution, only the first equation is needed. (In the context of electrodynamics, the terms vector potential and scalar potential are used for magnetic vector potential and electric potential, respectively. In mathematics, vector potential and scalar potential can be generalized to higher dimensions.) If electric and magnetic fields are defined as above from potentials, they automatically satisfy two of Maxwell's equations: Gauss's law for magnetism and Faraday's law. For example, if A is continuous and well-defined everywhere, then it is guaranteed not to result in magnetic monopoles. (In the mathematical theory of magnetic monopoles, A is allowed to be either undefined or multiple-valued in some places; see magnetic monopole for details). Starting with the above definitions and remembering that the divergence of the curl is zero and the curl of the gradient is the zero vector: Alternatively, the existence of A and φ is guaranteed from these two laws using Helmholtz's theorem.