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by Science Made Simple
What is Static Electricity? --- Static electricity experiments & projects Learn More: Triboelectric Series, Coulomb's Law & static charge I Can Read: Static Electricity Static Control Tips - How to remove static electricity in your home or office.
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You walk across the rug, reach for the doorknob and..........ZAP!!! You get a static shock.
Or, you come inside from the cold, pull off your hat and......BOING!!! Static hair that static electricity makes your hair stand straight out from your head. What is going on here? And why is static more of a problem in the winter? To understand static electricity, we have to learn a little bit about the nature of matter. Or in other words, what is all the stuff around us made of? EVERYTHING IS MADE OF ATOMS
Imagine a pure gold ring. Divide it in half and give one of the halves away. Keep dividing and dividing and dividing. Soon you will have a piece so small you will not able to see it without a microscope. It may be very, very small, but it is still a piece gold. If you could keep dividing it into smaller and smaller pieces, you would finally get to the smallest piece of gold possible. It is called an atom. If you divided it into smaller pieces, it would no longer be gold.
An at . Th can move from one atom to another. PARTS OF AN ATOM So what are atoms made of? In the middle of each atom is a "nucleus. Just like in the solar system.) ELECTRICAL CHARGES Protons. Neutrons have no charge. we can use it to help us understand static electricity. The electrons orbit around the nucleus like the planets around the sun. One of these properties is called an electrical charge. it neutral. or characteristics. called orbitals. Scientists so far have found only 115 different kinds of atoms. And the electrons are very far away from the nucleus. Normally th nucleus does not change.dimensional volumes with different shapes. Electrons have a "negative" (-) charge. The atom is mostly empty space." The nucleu contains two kinds of tiny particles. they are neutral. It is useful to think of a model of the atom as similar to the solar system. The 115 kinds of atoms are different from each other because they have different numbers of protons. the nucleus is large compared to the electrons. Everything you see is made of different combinations of these atoms. When the number of prot in an atom equals the number of electrons. But some of the outer electrons are held very loosely. neutrons and electrons are very different from each other. Orbiting around th nucleus are even smaller particles called electrons. like the sun in the center of the solar system. called protons and neutrons. ELECTRONS CAN MOVE The protons and neutrons in the nucleus are held together very tightly. neutron and electrons. Protons have what we call a "positive" (+) charge. They have thei own properties. The charge of on proton is equal in strength to the charge of one electron. the atom itself has no overall charge. This may be discussed in a future issue. While this mod is not completely accurate. An atom that loses electrons has more positiv charges (protons) than negative charges (electrons). It is positively charged.Everything around us is made of atoms. The nucle is in the center of the atom. (Note: A more accurate model would show the electrons moving in 3.
It has a negative charge. or different charges (a positive and a negative) will attract.) Static electricity is the imbalance of positive and negative charges. The mo rubbing. picks up extra electrons and has a negative charge. positive and negative charges behave in interesting ways. These are called conductors. How can we move electrons from one place to another? One very common way is t rub two objects together." Some materials hold their electrons very tightly. glass and dry air are go insulators. Rubbing just increases the contact area between them. If they are made of different materials. and the larger the static charge that builds up. Other materials have some loosely held electrons. Electrons do not move through th very well. Did you ever hear saying that opposites attract? Well. A charged atom is called an "ion. electrons may be transferred (or moved) from one to the other. OPPOSITES ATTRACT Now.that gains electrons has more negative than positive particles. Holding it near a neutral object . or push away from each other. Think about how you ca make a balloon stick to the wall. cloth. or pull towards each other. Things with the same charge (two positives or two negatives) will repel. Two things with opposite. These things are called insulators. If you charge a balloon by rubbing it on your hair. which move through them very easily. Plastic. (Scientists believe that it is not the rubbing or friction that causes electrons to mov It is simply the contact between two different materials. A charged object will also attract something that is neutral. and are both insulators. the more electrons move. Most metals are good conductors. it's true.
the electrons in the atoms and molecules can only move very slightly to one side.) As you walk across a carpet. The balloon sticks. Click here to get yours now completely RISK FREE! I CAN READ . The water in the air helps electrons move off y more quickly. In either case. The farthest they can get is by standing up and away from the others.) It works the same way for neutral and positively charg objects. electrons move from the rug to you. as far from the balloon as possible. A static charge builds up and now each of the hairs has the same positive charge. It's easy with the Science Made Simple newsletter. away from the balloon. the air is more humid. Remember. The electrons jump from you to the knob. Discover the wonders of science. (At least until the electrons the balloon slowly leak off. there are more positive charges closer to the negative balloon. many electrons mov easily to the other side. Opposites attract. Touch a door knob and ZAP! The door knob a conductor. Durin the summer. So the hairs try get as far from each other as possible. so you can not build up as big a static charge. and you feel the static shoc We usually only notice static electricity in the winter when the air is very dry. it rubs against your hair. Now you have ex electrons and a negative static charge. If it is an insulator. things with the same charge repel each other.will make the charges in that object move. Electrons move from your hair the hat. And that is how static electricity causes a bad hair day! (Get tips on how to eliminate static electricity problems in your home or office. If it is a conductor. So what does all this have to do with static shocks? Or static electricity in hair? Wh you take off your wool hat.
If two things have the same charge. When charges are separated like this. they attract. it is "neutral. These are called protons. or push away from each other. They are very different from each other in many ways. Now each of the hairs has the same positive charge. Neutrons have no charge. One way they are different is their "charge." But if you rub things together. The atoms are made of even smaller parts. it rubs against your hair. they repel. If two things have different charges. Some atoms get extra electrons." Protons have a positive (+) charge.What is Static Electricity? Everything we see is made up of tiny little parts called atoms. electrons and neutrons. atoms have the same number of electrons and protons. They have a negative charge. Things with the same charge repel each other. . electrons can move from one atom t another. it is called static electricity. Usually. Then the atom has no charge. Electron move from your hair to the hat. So the hairs try to move away from each other. So. why does your hair stand up after you take your hat off? When you pull your hat off. Other atoms lose electrons. The farthest they can get is to stand up and away from all the oth hairs. or pull towards each other. They have a positive charge. Electrons have negative (-) charge.
You can experiment with things on this list for yourself TRIBOELECTRIC SERIES your hand glass your hair nylon wool fur silk paper cotton hard rubber polyester polyvinylchloride plastic CONSERVATION OF CHARGE When we charge something with static electricity. electrons move from the rug to you. LEARN MORE ABOUT: STATIC ELECTRICITY TRIBOELECTRIC SERIES When we rub two different materials together. No new protons appear or disappear. no electrons are made or destroyed. The net. This is called the principle of conservation of charge. Under ideal conditions. if two materials are rubbe together.If you walk across a carpet. Electrons are just moved from one place to another. A list of som common materials is shown here. . electric charge stays the same. Touch a door knob and ZAP! The electrons move from you to the knob. the one higher on the list should give up electrons and become positively charged. This ranking is called the triboelectric series. which becomes positively charged a which becomes negative? Scientists have ranked materials in order of their ability t hold or give up electrons. Now you have extra electrons. You get a shock. or total.
Also. Charles Coulomb first described electric field strengths in the 1780's. or puffed rice of wheat) What to do: . Observe all safety precautions. This means that the greater the distance.COULOMB'S LAW Charged objects create an invisible electric force field around themselves. k is the proportionality constant. the electrical force varies directly with the product of the charges In other words. small pieces of dry cereal (O-shapes. The strength of this field depends on many things. Projects 1-3 work best on dry days. the weaker the force becomes. including the amount of charge. distance involved. He found that for point charges. or a balloon thread. and shape of the objects. And the field varies inversely with the square of the distance between the charges. q1 and q2 are the charges. Point sources are charged objects which are much. and depends on the material separating charges. the greater the charges. We can simplify things by working with "point sources" of charge. This can become very complicated. the stronger the field. and d is the distance between the charges. STATIC ELECTRICITY EXPERIMENTS & PROJECTS SAFETY NOTE: Please read all instructions completely before starting the projects. much smaller than the distance between them. This can be written as the formula: F = k (q1 X q2) / d2 where F is the force. PROJECT 1 .Swinging cereal What you need: a hard rubber or plastic comb. Tip: Try to use the part of the charged object that has the biggest charge (the part that was rubbed the most) when doing these experiments.
Now try to touch the comb to the cereal again. T comb had a negative static charge. dry hair several times. The neutral cereal was attracted to it. steady stream. The bulb can be wrapped in sticky. Tie a piece of the cereal to one end of a 12 inch piece of thread. This project can also be done by substituting a balloon for the comb. Slowly bring the comb near the cereal.Light a light bulb with a balloon You Need: hard rubber comb or balloon a dark room fluorescent light bulb (not an incandescent bulb) SAFETY NOTE: DO NOT USE ELECTRICITY FROM A WALL OUTLET FOR THIS EXPERIMENT. 2. Find a place to attach the other end so that the cereal does not hang close to anything else. 3. Handle the glass light bulb with care to avoid breakage.Bending water What you need: a hard rubber or plastic comb. Take the light bulb and comb into the dark room. 4. 6. or vigorously rub the comb on a wool sweater. It will move away as the com approaches. This project can also be done using a balloon instead of the comb.1. Charge the comb by running it through long. 5. What Happened: Combing your hair moved electrons from your hair to the comb. What happened: The neutral water was attracted to the charged comb. What to do: 1. electrons slowly moved from the comb to the cereal. What to do: 1. and the cereal was repelled. Make sure to build up a lot of charge for this experiment. or a balloon a sink and water faucet. abo 1/8 inch thick. 2. When the touched. .) 2. Charge the comb by running it through long. 3. dry hair several times or rub it vigorously on a sweater. PROJECT 2 . Turn on the faucet so that the water runs out in a small." 4. Hold still until the cereal jumps away by itself. Now both objects ha the same negative charge. PROJECT 3 . It will swing to touch the comb. Wash the comb to remove any oils and dry it well. and moved towards it. (You can tape the thread to the edge of a table but check with your parents first. Slowly bring the comb near the water and watch the water "bend. transparent tape to reduce the chance of injury if it does break. Charge the comb on your hair or sweater.
In the summer. What happened: In the bathroom. Experiment with touching different parts of the bulb. Rub the balloon on your hair or sweater. In normal operation.3.) PROJECT 4 . the air is more hum and static electricity does not build up as much as during the winter. Repeat step (1) in the bathroom. just after someone has taken a hot. Touch the charged part of the comb to the light bulb and watch very careful You should be able to see small sparks. steam shower. . and a watch or clock What you do: 1. 2. water in the air and on the walls helped move electrons away from the balloon more quickly.Static in the Summer What you need: a balloon. the electrons to light the bulb come from the electrical power lines through a wire in th end of the tube. electrons moved from to the bulb. (Fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs will be discussed in a future issue. What happened: When the charged comb touched the bulb. when the air i very dry. causing the small sparks of light inside. Stick it to a wall and time how long stays before falling down.
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