Static Electricity

Bill’s all charged up about the “Static Electricity” show.

It happens to all of us. You’re causally walking along, maybe dragging your feet a little, when you reach out to shake a friend’s hand and – ZAP! Both you and your friend get shocked. The spark is static electricity, a buildup of charged electrons.

Electrons are a part of all atoms, the building blocks of all stuff, including you and me. All electrons have a negative charge. Negatively charged electrons push away from other negatively charged electrons. Like charges repel each other. When electrons build up in an area, a charge builds up, and it’s just waiting to be released. This buildup of charge is called static electricity.

Charges can jump around between things, especially when things are rubbed together. When you drag your feet on the carpet, electrons from the carpet jump onto you. As the charge builds up, the electrons get too close to each other, and they need a place to escape. They get their chance when you touch something or someone else. The electrons jump onto your pal, making both of you jump at the electric shock.

Watch the “Static Electricity” episode – it’s shocking!

The Big Idea

  • All materials have electrons, which are tiny charged parts of atoms.
  • A buildup of these charged electrons is called static electricity.
  • Static charges can jump from one object to another.

Did You Know That?

  • Lightning is a form of static electricity?
  • Many photocopiers use static electricity to make copies?
  • Benjamin Franklin proved that lightning was electricity by flying a kite in a thunderstorm? Don’t try this at home…he might have been killed.

Books of Science!

  • “Understanding Electricity” by Gary Gibson. Published by Copper Beech Books, 1995.