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de graff generator operation. It was Michael Faraday who discovered that whenever a small object having excess electric charge was placed inside a metal ice pail, the pail seemed to become charged immediately. Also, if the small object was conductive, then if he touched the object to the inside of the pail, the ice pail would steal ALL the excess charge from the small object. The small object became neutral and the metal pail remained charged. Very strange, no? Wouldn't you expect the excess charge to share between the pail and the object? It can share in this way, but only if the small object is touched to the OUTSIDE of the metal pail. Charged objects placed within metal containers behave very strange.
FIGURE 1. The charged metal bead is surrounded with an electric field. Don't be misled by the sparse "field lines," this field actually fills space completely and is not divided into
notice that the field lines arrange themselves on the outside of the hollow sphere as if the sphere was already charged. I drew the lines merely to show the intensity and direction of the field. FIGURE 3 & 4. ALL the excess charge on the metal bead travels to the hollow sphere. We could say that an electric field IS VOLTAGE. FIGURE 2. once the charged bead is inside the hollow sphere. . Also. When the metal bead touches the inside of the hollow sphere. In the language of physics textbooks. the e-field lines concentrate between the bead and the inner surface. so in a certain sense. then they vanish. FIGURE 5. and the position of the charged bead cannot affect it. Note that the hollow metal sphere is initially UNCHARGED: it has just as many field-lines leading into it as leading out. As the charged metal bead approaches and penetrates the uncharged metal sphere. movements of the small bead do not affect the field outside.widely separated lines. This excess charge on the surface of the sphere spreads out. This leaves the rest of the hollow sphere with an imbalanced charge which is exactly equal to the excess charge on the small bead. an electric field is MADE of electric potential. Rather than sharing charge equally. the charge-imbalance on the small bead INDUCES an equal and opposite charge on the inner surface of the hollow sphere. Note that electric fields are measured in terms of volts per meter.
and by the distance between sphere and ground and nearby objects. by the curvature of the sphere. The charged beads think that the inside of the hollow sphere is "ground. the voltage on your VDG will momentarily change when you reach your hand out towards it.What would happen if a constant stream of charged beads was delivered to the inside surface of the hollow metal sphere? The sphere would steal their charge. Open one up. (Yes. but in the real world it is limited by dirt and sharp edges on the sphere. and the excess charge on the sphere would rise and rise without limit! No matter how strong the charge grew on the outside of the hollow sphere. the belt "thinks" it's delivering its charge to the inside of a grounded sphere. In theory it will rise forever. you could build a hand-cranked Van de Graaff machine . If you had a gearbox and a crank. As long is the belt is moving. Even though the belt-charging section in the base of the machine may only be capable of a few thousand volts. by conductivity of the belt and the support column. and you'll find that its AC cord leads to a simple electric motor. Rather than delivering small balls. you could still insert a charged bead and have it deliver ALL of its charge to the hollow sphere." The hollow sphere seems to have an INFINITE CHARGE SUCTION EFFECT! The Van de Graaff Electrostatic Generator uses this effect to attain enormous voltages. the voltage and excess charge on the hollow sphere will keep rising and rising. The voltage level will fall. a charged rubber belt is used to deliver a continuous stream of excess charge to the inside of the hollow sphere.) VAN DE GRAAFF MACHINE: Belt and Rollers The standard classroom Van de Graff machine contains no power supply.
. and the charges are carried away on the belt The process repeats. the belt peels away and the . and rollers invisibly combine to form an electrostatic device called a Continuously Operating Electrophorus.. This happens as it contacts the belt surface. chemical bonds form and the charges in the surface atoms of the two materials share unequally. and it occurs for the same reason that a balloon becomes electrified when rubbed upon hair. When the rubber belt touches the plastic roller. Overall. Notice that the belt and the roller are made from two different materials.with no electric cord at all! Although they look simple at first glance. the "electrophorus" works like this: The roller becomes strongly electrified The roller attracts opposite charge into the comb teeth The electric field between the roller and teeth becomes intense The field shreds air molecules into conductive plasma called "corona" The air conducts. CHARGING THE ROLLER In the first stage of operation the roller's surface becomes strongly electrified. and charges in the comb leap towards the roller The moving charges hit the belt surface and stick to it The roller turns. the belt. As the roller rotates. combs. This device harnesses an effect called Electrostatic Induction in order to pump electric charge between the metal comb and the surface of the moving belt.
This whole process is called "frictional charging". . it's more accurate to call it "electrification by contact." (Note: in the example below. it is much weaker than the concentrated charge on the roller. the roller receives a positive surface charge. The belt and roller surfaces take their equal and opposite charges with them. since it doesn't figure into the next step.surfaces separate again.) Fig. but this is not always true. Areas of equal and opposite charges were created. 1 HOW THE PLASTIC ROLLER BECOMES ELECTRIFIED After operating for awhile the belt will become weakly negative and the roller will be strongly positive. and in some Van de Graaff machines the roller becomes negative. but since no friction is actually required. The roller's polarity depends on the materials used for the belt and roller. The weak charge on the belt can be ignored for now. but since the negative charge is spread widely on the belt.
Elmo's Fire". the fourth state of matter. and like a metal it's a fairly good conductor. A mass of shattered air and free electrons forms at the needle tip. But no electrons leave the metal yet. The electron fluid of the metal migrates toward the tip of the needle. also "plasma". . the positive surface charge on the roller attracts the negative electron-fluid of the metal. Metals are composed of a solid grid of positive atoms immersed in a movable "fluid" of negative electrons. and they strike other air molecules and rupture them as well. The freed electrons of the air are strongly repelled. and when the metal needle comes close to the roller.CHARGES LEAP THROUGH THE AIR A metal needle is held near the surface of the belt at the place where the belt passes over the roller. Plasma has movable electrons like metals. This stuff is called "corona discharge" or "St. Any air molecules which come near the needle tip are torn into separate electrons and positive atomic nucleii by the intense electric attraction/repulsion forces. The needle tip acquires an intensely strong negative charge. and this negative charge affects the air.
2 POSITIVE OBJECT MAKES GROUNDED NEEDLE SPEW CHARGED WIND Next. The negative air moves towards the positive roller and coats the surface of the belt. making them negative. negative electrons from the plasma stick to neutral air molecules. negative charge moves from the metal and into the air. the rubber belt is in the way. (Note that VDG machines need air on their needle tips in order to operate. with the result that a "wind" of negatively charged air flows from the needle tip.) THE BELT INTERCEPTS THE LEAPING CHARGES The negatively charged wind is strongly attracted to the positively charged roller surface. At the same time. They won't work if operated in a vacuum. However. which partially shields and cancels the roller's charge. But then the roller rotates and the belt surface moves upwards. The negative air is repelled from the negative needle.Fig. The plasma creates a conductive bridge between the metal the insulating air. . which keeps attracting more negative charge from the needle. carrying the negative charge with it. Fresh rubber surface is continually re-exposed. positive air molecules from the plasma collide with the metal needle and steal electrons from it. On the average.
Notice that no matter how much negative charge spews from the needle. It almost seems like perpetual motion. This is called "charging by induction". This is also called "charging by corona wind". since the positive roller "induces" a charge on the tip of the needle. Fig. the belt always intercepts it before it cancels the positive charge on the roller. The roller never loses its positive charge. 3 THE CHARGED ROLLER FORCES THE COMB TO CHARGE THE BELT . since the "corona discharge" plasma allows charges to flow from needle and into the air. yet the roller forces charge to flow from the needle to the belt.
This second roller must *not* be positively charged. This second roller acts in reverse to the first. Are there charges in the ground? Yes. it either must have a negative charge. and the electrical attraction/repulsion forces tear apart the nearby air molecules into conductive glowing plasma. In many classroom VDG devices this second roller is neutral metal. it repels the "fluid" electrons of the metal needle tip and pushes them away from the tip. As the negatively charged belt passes over the upper roller. CHARGES EXIT AT THE TOP The belt carries charge up the column of the Van de Graaff. and so the wire can suck one polarity of charges out of the Earth. This exposes the positive metal atom nucleii. The positive air is attracted to the negative charge on . The surface charge at the tip of the needle is intensely positive.The other end of the needle is connected by a wire to the ground or to a large metal object. then passes by another roller and needle assembly. which causes the needle to spew negative charge onto the belt. because the Earth is conductive. the system acts as a miniature charge-pump by forcing charge to flow from the neutral earth and onto the surface of the belt. which causes a small electric current to flow from ground and into the needle. leaving behind positively charged air molecules which rush away. and the charge on the belt is dumped into the upper needle tip. Overall. or it must be neutral. more are drawn in through the wire. This time the free electrons of the plasma are attracted into the needle. In order to work in reverse. As negative charges spew from the needle and are attracted towards the positive roller. As the roller rotates it maintains its positive charge. It contains equal amounts of opposite charge.
the "icepail effect" sucks the excess charge to the outside of the sphere. the VDG machine looks very simple to the eye. The rollers must be made from two different materials (e. Or simplify it further by connecting one end to the earth and put a hollow sphere over the other end. and that's everything. Fig. TWO COMBS. the negative surface charge on the belt has "leapt" onto the needle and flowed to the surface of the Van de Graaff sphere. The needle is connected to a wire.the rubber belt. and it combines with the belt charge and mostly cancels it out. plastic and aluminum.) Two "combs" of wire are held near the belt surface. AND TWO DIFFERING ROLLERS Overall. As the belt repels the plasma electrons into the needle. A belt passes over two rollers.g. 4 A BELT. Add a hand-crank or a motor and a couple of hollow spheres. On average. . which is connected to the inside of the hollow VDG sphere.
This would reverse the polarity and paint the belt with positive rather than negative charge. and just as you might expect. Real Van de Graaff generators have added complexity. with the plastic roller up in the hollow sphere and the metal roller inside the base. Or. negative charge runs down the other. This would send equal and opposite charge to the two ends of the belt. The main benefit is to guarantee VDG operation when humidity is so high that a plastic or felt roller would not be charged by contact electrification. While positive charge moves up one half of the belt. with one roller becoming positive and the other being negative.Above is the basic explanation of the VDG operation. Instead they supply a metal roller connected to a high voltage power supply. This reverses both the overall direction of electric current and the polarity of the imbalance of charge on the upper sphere. ACTIVE CHARGING SUPPLY Some expensive Van de Graaff machines eliminate the charging roller altogether. a plastic belt and a rubber roller could be used. And since small amounts of grime will interfere with the process of contact . This works fine. This doubles the overall electric current and makes the VDG work better in humid weather. REVERSED POLARITY For example. the entire column assembly could be built upside-down. roller and belt materials could be chosen so that both rollers develop a charge. it reverses both the direction of current and the charge polarity of the sphere. and commercial units will often have differing details. Or.
a VDG with a high voltage supply is much less sensitive to buildup of dirt.electrification. .
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