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P2 Topic 1: Static and Current electricity
Static electricity is caused by an electrostatic charge building up on insulating materials, including you.
All atoms contain electrically charged particles called protons and electrons. Protons are found in the nucleus
of the atom and are positively charged while the electrons are found in the shells of the atom and are
If you rub two insulating materials together, electrons may be transferred from one material to another.
Protons will not be transferred as they are fixed in the nuclei of atoms. The combination of the two materials
determines which one gains electrons and which one loss them.
When acetate is rubbed on a piece of cloth some of the electrons on the acetate move onto the cloth.
However, when you rub a polythene rod some of the electrons on the cloth move onto the polythene.
Objects charged with static electricity can attract or repel each other. If the charges are the same they will
repel, if they are different they will attract.
Sparks and shocks caused by static electricity
When synthetic clothes move over each other or over your head, electrons are scraped off the material
leaving static charges on the clothes. This leads to attraction between the clothes (i.e. they stick together)
and sparks as the charges rearrange themselves.
Static charges can build up between clothes and synthetic car seats: the friction of when you get out the car
can cause electrons to be scraped off. When you touch the metal door the charge flows from you to the
Some cars have a discharge strip which hangs down and touches the ground which is earthing; a safe
discharge to earth.
If you walk on a nylon carpet and insulating shoes there will be a transfer of electrons from the carpet to you.
This charge can build up in your body. You then become discharged when you touch a metal object (i.e. door
handle) and the charge flows to the conductor and you get a little shock.
If you rub a balloon on your jumper the balloon becomes negatively charged. This is because of the electrons
being transferred from the jumper and onto the balloon. This gives the balloon a negative charge. If you hold
the balloon to the wall it will stick, even though the wall isn't charged. This is because the charges on the
surface of the wall can move a little the negative charges on the balloon repel the negative charges on the
negatively charged balloon. This attraction holds the balloon on the wall.
The method of using a charge object to force charges in an uncharged object to move is called induction.
If you run a comb through your hair electrons will be transferred to the comb and it will become negatively
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This comb can then pick up tiny pieces of paper, even though they have no charge holding it near the little
pieces of paper causes induction in the paper which means they stick to the comb.
Lightning is caused by the build-up of static charge. This static charge is caused by rain drops and ice bumping
together inside storm clouds which knock off electrons.…read more