Static Electricity

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Have you ever tried to attract bits of paper with your comb after using it on your hair? You might attract some plastic strips as well. Although it seems to be attractive, have you ever wondered why it happens so? To find the reason for such a phenomenon, you must know what is static electricity. Static electricity physics is an exciting and high scoring chapter in any board examinations. The students need to know the concepts and static electricity applications to score well in their examination.


What is Static Electricity?

The flow of electrons defines electricity. Electrons flow when there is an imbalance in the electron concentration of two bodies in contact. When there is a contrast in the electrical charges, i.e., the positive and the negative charges in a body, static electricity is generated. As per the static electricity definition, this imbalance of electrical charges is created by physical forces. This is the basic difference between static electricity and current electricity. If you understand the static electricity meaning, you must know that the two bodies have to be in contact. Since protons are located at the centre of the atom, they cannot move. Therefore, the only movement of electrons takes place. This is because electrons located at the outermost orbitals experience lesser attraction from the nucleus and shift to other atoms. 


If you want to demonstrate and define static electricity, you need to apply some physical forces like rubbing. By doing so, you create an excess of free electrons, which accumulate on the surface. Whenever this surface comes in contact with a surface that lacks electrons, electrons' flow occurs. By explaining this phenomenon, you will also be able to explain what is a static charge. It is defined as the charge accumulated at the surface due to physical forces that can be transferred to another body that comes in contact. When an electron flows, energy is also transferred. Such energy is used to define what is static energy.


The exchange of electrons can also take place when the bodies are close to each other. In such a scenario, the transfer of electrons takes place through the air over a small distance.


Static Electricity Examples

If you have understood the static electricity definition in physics, you will be able to solve several phenomena that take place around you with these concepts. One such example is lightning. If you want to know what happens during lightning, you need to understand the static charge definition and apply these concepts in this phenomenon.


Static Charge Accumulates in Rain-filled Clouds

In earlier classes, you have learned that water evaporates from natural water bodies to form clouds. Water evaporation is caused by the flow of hot and cold air. The opposite movements of hot and cold air result in friction. The flow of electrons takes place due to this friction. As the rain clouds are formed, the top portion carries the maximum positive charges while the bottom parts carry the maximum negative charges. This imbalance in charge distribution increases further when the rain clouds get heavier. This imbalance creates a channel of air through conduction, allowing the flow of charges. This flow of charges visually results in lightning. Lightning is associated with the generation of a large amount of energy. This energy is manifested in the form of thunder.

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Lightning Rod

Lightning rods and similar protective measures are installed in several houses to protect them from lightning. These metal structures are attached to the side of the body. One end of it is projected above the house. The other end is deeply embedded in the earth. As the lightning strikes, the lightning rods transfer the electrons from the clouds to the earth below. As a consequence, the house is protected from electric current.

 

Types of Charges

Two types of charges exist in nature. The loss of electrons generates a positive charge while the gain of electrons generates a negative charge.

 

Static Electricity Generator

An electrostatic generator generates static electricity by two methods. The triboelectric effect takes place when charge separation takes place between two bodies due to friction. Electrostatic induction refers to the redistribution of charges on the surface of the same body due to a nearby static electric field.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Meant by Static Electricity?

The electricity generated when two bodies move against each other is called static electricity. The electricity is generated due to the imbalance created in the distribution of electrons between the two surfaces. Due to the friction generated due to such movements, the electrons are rearranged on the surface of the two bodies. In this rearrangement process, electrons are transferred from one body to another. One body becomes positively charged (due to lack of electrons), and another body becomes negatively charged (due to the gain of electrons). Such static charges can also be generated on the surface of the bodies due to the influence of a nearby electrostatic field. Such a phenomenon is called electrostatic induction. A static electricity generator works on the principle of electrostatic induction to generate static electricity. Static electricity has several real-life implications like lightning. It is also used for several daily purposes.

2. What are the 5 Uses of Static Electricity?

Since its discovery, static electricity has been widely used for several applications. 

  • The foremost use of it is in printers. With the help of static charges, the printer attracts the toner or the ink to the paper. The inkjet is attracted to the right places on the printer by following this electric field. Laser printers also follow the same principle.

  • Several industries that work with coal or oil as the energy source use electrostatic precipitators. This machine is used to separate the smoke from the waste gases.

  • Many people use air fresheners in their house. Air fresheners use static electricity to remove dust and smoke particles from the air.

  • Car painters create differences in static charges in the paint and the body of the car. Then they use this static charge imbalance to paint the cars.

  • Static electricity is also used in powder testing.