Physics P2 - Van Der Graaff Generator

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Van Der Graaff Generator
What is a Van Der Graaff Generator and
how does it work?
A Van Der Graaff generator is a machine,
first demonstrated in 1929 by an American
physicist, Robert J Van Der Graaff. The dome
is a straightforward design; inside the dome
is a moving belt, which spins all the way up
in the dome to the bottom of the
generator. On each end of the generator,
there are bushes that either give or take
electrons from the moving belt. The process
of giving and taking electrons happens
continuously, this sends a (static) charge all
the way up to the dome. The whole
generator is based on the idea that by using
friction we exchange electrons between the
particles causing them to get a charge. For
example, let's say that the lower brushes
give its electrons to the moving belt making
the belt negative. Then the upper brush
would also collect the electrons making it
negative, this process caries on until we
reach the dome, as show on diagram below
(bottom left).
Why does touching the dome cause
your hair to stand?
When you touch the dome while standing
on an insulator (to prevent the charge being grounded), the charge either positive or
negative will cause your body to become either positive or negative. However, as we know
2 of the same poles repel so each of your hair strands will try to repel the other ones
causing it to stand on end.


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