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The Science of Static Electricity

Physics | 7-14 yrs | Interactive, Learning Pod

What causes Static Electricity?

“Martin! Get up and touch this door knob,” said Eeshan’s science teacher.

As soon as Martin touched the door knob, he felt a current.

The teacher continued, “What Martin felt was static electricity. On a cold winter day if you remove your hat, your hair will stand straight up on your head.

We know that everything is made of atoms. Atoms consist of a nucleus which is made of protons and neutrons. Orbiting around the nucleus are the electrons. Protons have a positive charge, electrons have a negative charge and neutrons have a neutral charge.

When we rub certain materials, electrons can move from one material to another. Some atoms get extra electrons. They have a negative charge. Other atoms lose electrons. They have a positive charge.”

“But Sir, why would my hair stand if I remove my hat?” asked Eeshan.

The teacher answered, “When you pull your hat off, you rub it against your hair. This is when electrons move from the hat to the hair. The hair would develop positive charge and it would repel the hat, hence standing up.”

It was time to head home. As Eeshan, Martin and Venkat were walking past the locked library gate, Martin took out his new piggy bank to show it to Eeshan. It slipped and rolled beneath the gate to the other side. “Oh no! My piggy bank! I wanted to show it to you,” cried Martin.

Eeshan said, “Venkat, give me the comb from your bag.” Venkat handed him the comb and Eeshan rubbed it on his head and quickly placed it below the gate close to the tin piggy bank. The piggy bank started to roll towards them slowly and Venkat was able to reach it easily.

“How did you do that?” asked Martin.

“Static electricity!” explained Eeshan.

Martin said, “Einstein Iyengar, you keep putting science to good use!”

Looking for more physics articles and videos? Go to: Physics for Kids.