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Section 8 Static electricity: Part 8.4 More examples of static electricity and its effects in the home

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8.4 More examples of static electricity and its effects in the home

As already mentioned, whenever certain synthetic fibre clothes rub up against each other, the friction between the surfaces can generate static electricity which can then discharge causing tiny sparks or tiny shocks.

This can cause clothing to stick to you as 'prickling effects' from the tiny electrical discharges.

Polishing surfaces to make them look clean and shiny also generates static charge on the surface and attracts fine dust particles e.g.  on table tops.

High voltage equipment can create static charge e.g. dust collects on TV and computer screens.

You can rub a balloon on your sweater to give the rubber surface a static charge, it can the induce an opposite charge on the surface of a ceiling and so it can stick there!

Note that before the rubbing together, both objects are electrically neutral, but after rubbing the two together ....

if the balloon loses electrons to the sweater, the balloon carries a positive charge, therefore the sweater will induce a negative static charge on the ceiling surface by attracting electrons, and the balloon sticks to the ceiling.

charging the surface of a balloon with static electricity

but, usually, the rubber balloon carries a negative charge, gaining electrons from the sweater rubbing.

The balloon will therefore induce a positive static charge on the ceiling surface by repelling electrons.

So attraction of opposite charges attract, and the balloon sticks to the ceiling!

This is known as attraction by induction, and will do the same to your hair, which is attracted to the balloon!

When you run a comb through your hair electrons can be transferred to the comb giving it a negative static charge.

Both the comb and hairs acquire a static charge.

It can then pick up bits of paper (see earlier section). Your hairs might also be attracted to the comb instead of staying in place!

When you walk on a vinyl floor or one covered with a nylon carpet you 'charge up' because of friction between you and the carpet, which can result in getting an electrostatic shock by touching a conducting material such as a metal door handle, water tap or even another person!

e.g. If you touch a water pipe (automatically earthed) after walking on a floor covered with an insulating material like synthetic carpet or vinyl tiles you may experience a small electric shock from the build up of static electricity on your clothing.

Many electrically insulating surfaces like plastic or wood, when polished, become charged when rubbed with a dusting cloth.

Therefore, polished surfaces readily attract the dust back again!

Some dusting brushes are designed to be charged, and induce a charge in dust particles to attract and collect them.

Anti-static spray coatings are made from a conducting polymer dissolved in a solvent made from deionized water and alcohol.

When the solvent evaporates, it leaves behind a very thin conducting skin on the surface of the object that drains any static charge away and prevents further static build-up.

You can also get a cloth that does the same job.

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Keywords, phrases and learning objectives on static electricity

Be able to describe and explain examples of static electricity effects in the home e.g. use of anti-static coatings, additives in materials like clothing to reduce sparking from friction, explain why dusting surfaces can cause dust to collect on charged objects like computer and TV screens and explain why a rubbed balloon can stick on a ceiling, and rubbing on carpets can produce sparks - all reduced by the use of ant-static agent chemicals.


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