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Static Electricity

Most of us have experienced or even played with static electricity at one time or another. So in this page well explain what it is and have a play with it.

Static electricity is generated for almost any movement. Most of the time it is corrected as it is generated but there are many times when it doesn't and it builds to a point where you notice it. Try drag your feet on the carpet with shoes on, rub a balloon on your head or take cloths from a dryer and you might experience it. Because of the properties of some of the materials involved, the charge builds and when it is discharged (when you touch something metal) you can see the spark. These are all formed by physical or mechanical friction knocking loose electrons.

Experiment with it:
You might have to wait for a dry day or an air conditioned room for this to work as moisture in the air will mean this will not work well. First tear up or cut up a piece of paper into the smallest pieces you can get. Next, inflate a rubber balloon. Now hold it in one hand and rub it on your hair. This removes some electron from your hair and the rubber balloon picks them up, giving it a negative charge. If you move the balloon near the paper you can watch all the bits of paper jump up to the balloon.

static balloon picture.

This work because like charge repel and different charge attract. The negative charge on the comb is attracted to the neutral paper. This can be seen in making a homemade electroscope.

Get a jar with a cork top and make a hole in the centre. Insert a piece of copper wire into the hole leaving some out each end. Take a small piece of foil and with gloves on cut a long rectangle of foil and fold it in half. On the bottom end of the wire, bend it into a triangle. And, with gloves, place the foil over the loop. Now place the cork on the top of the jar. It should look something like this.

cork jar homemade electroscope

Now when you place an electrical charge (try your balloon again) one the copper wire a charge will run through it and the aluminum foil. The foil is light enough that the two sides of the folded foil, having an equal charge will move apart. The further they move apart the more charge I there is. Neat huh.

cork jar experimental electroscope results


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