Have you ever walked
across the room to pet your dog, but got a shock instead? Perhaps
you took your hat off on a dry winter's day and had a "hair
raising" experience! Or, maybe you have made a balloon stick
on the wall after rubbing it against your clothes?
Why do these things happen?
Is it magic? No, it's not magic; it's static electricity!
static electricity, we first need to understand the basics of atoms
All physical objects
are made up of atoms. Inside an atom are protons, electrons and
neutrons. The protons are positively charged, the electrons are
negatively charged, and the neutrons are neutral.
Therefore, all things
are made up of charges. Opposite charges attract each other (negative
to positive). Like charges repel each other (positive to positive
or negative to negative). Most of the time positive and negative
charges are balanced in an object, which makes that object neutral.
Static electricity is
the result of an imbalance between negative and positive charges
in an object. These charges can build up on the surface of an object
until they find a way to be released or discharged. One way to discharge
them is through a circuit.
The rubbing of certain
materials against one another can transfer negative charges, or
electrons. For example, if you rub your shoe on the carpet, your
body collects extra electrons. The electrons cling to your body
until they can be released. As you reach and touch your furry friend,
you get a shock. Don't worry, it is only the surplus electrons being
released from you to your unsuspecting pet.
And what about that
"hair raising" experience? As you remove your hat, electrons
are transferred from hat to hair, creating that interesting hairdo!
Remember, objects with the same charge repel each other. Because
they have the same charge, your hair will stand on end. Your hairs
are simply trying to get as far away from each other as possible!
When you rub a balloon
against your clothes and it sticks to the wall, you are adding a
surplus of electrons (negative charges) to the surface of the balloon.
The wall is now more positively charged than the balloon. As the
two come in contact, the balloon will stick because of the rule
that opposites attract (positive to negative).
For more static electricity
information and experiments, see the list of Web Resources and Further
Made Simple: What is static electricity? - There
are four sections to Science Made Simple's Static
Electricity Page: "1) The main section gives
a clear, detailed answer to the question. 2) 'I Can
Read' pages are written in simple, clear language
for young readers. 3) 'Learn More About It' pages
are more difficult and cover additional information
in more depth 4) Projects are included for each topic."
Electricity Page created by Bill Beaty - This Web site
contains a list of Web links for static electricity build
it projects, articles, Web sites, companies, and much more.
Science News Network: What is static electricity?
Sponsored by NASA,
The Kids Science News Network (KSSN) teaches mathematics,
science, and technology to students, teachers, and parents
in a fun, entertaining, and educational manner. There is
a downloadable "newsbreak" film which answers
the question "What is static electricity?". Also
included are activities, a quiz, additional resources &
a list of related Web links. Kids
Science News Network Homepage has a complete list of
questions and answers, such as, "Why is the sky blue?".
A.D. Electrostatics: exploring, controlling, and using
static electricity. 1st ed. Garden City, NJ, Doubleday,1968.
Chris. Electricity & magnetism. Des Plaines,
IL, Heinemann Library, c.2000. 32 p. (Juvenile literature)
Harry. Experiments with static electricity. New York,
Norton, 1969. 85 p.
more print resources...
Search on "electricity ," or "electrostatics."
in the Library of Congress Online
Two girls are
"electrified" during an experiment at the Liberty Science
Center "Camp-in", February 5, 2002. America's
Story, Liberty Science Center "Camp-in"
Young man seated next to a Holtz electrostatic influence machine, Dickinson College, 1889. From the Prints and Photographs Catalog, Library of Congress.
Group of young women studying static electricity in normal school, Washington, D.C. Photo - c. 1899. From the Prints and Photographs Catalog, Library of Congress.
. From the Government Safety Board Web site.
Also from the Government Safety Board Web site, a link to a video of a fire from static electricity at a storage facility in Kansas in 2008.