Static electricity is the build up of an electrical charge on the surface of an object. Static charges build up when two surfaces rub together and electrons move from one surface to another. This causes one object to have a negative charge and one to have a positive charge.
- Everything is made up of molecules and molecules are made up of atoms. Atoms have positively charged protons, neutral neurons, and negatively charged electrons. When something (or someone) has an uneven number of protons or electrons, the electrons start looking for somewhere else to go. This jumping back and forth between two objects that have opposite electrical charges creates static electricity.
- You have probably been able to make your hair stand on end by rubbing it with a balloon or using a plastic comb. The balloon or comb pick up the negative charge, and your hair is left with a positive charge. Since each hair has a positive charge, they all try to get away from each other and end up standing on end. The hair is attracted to the balloon or comb because of its negative charge.
- There are ways to avoid getting shocked by static electricity. If you rub against an insulating material such as plastic or wool, then touch a wall or a wooden door before touching something metallic.
- Static means it’s not moving. So, the reason it’s called static electricity is because the charges stay in one area and don’t move.
- Lightening is a very large example of the effects of static electricity. During a storm clouds pass by each other and electrons can jump from one cloud to another, causing clouds to have strong positive or negative charges. These charges are attracted to each other and eventually jump through the air causing the spectacular spark.
- Static electricity can be used to the advantage in some industries. For example, in a photocopier the ink is positively charged and the paper is negatively charged so that the positively charged ink can print on the paper.
- Some electronic chips, like the ones in computers, are very sensitive to static electricity and can be damaged by it. Special bags, surge protectors and wrist bands are available to protect electronic devices.
Electric charge: Electric charge is a basic property of protons and electrons. Atoms that have more protons than electrons are positively charged and those that have more electrons are negatively charged.
Questions and Answers
Question: How do dryer sheets help prevent static electricity on clothing?
Answer: Dryer sheets have a positively charged ingredient that coats your clothes while they’re in the dryer. This substance bonds to the negatively charged fabric and reduces static cling.
Watch a video to learn more about static electricity.