Static electric charges

Electric charges are formed on some objects when they are rubbed.

The electric charges that are created by rubbing on the surface of objects are called Static electric charges. This occurs due to an imbalance of negative and positive charges on an object.

Static electric charges are electrical charges generated by rubbing objects. They are the opposite of dynamic electric charges, which are the ones that result from a flow of electricity.

In the case of static electric charges, the charge is on a surface (or part) of an object. This charge can be positive or negative depending on which way it is oriented.

For example, if you rub your hands together before touching something (such as a doorknob), you are creating static electricity between your fingers and the doorknob. The static charge will make it easier to turn the doorknob because it causes it to stick slightly more than usual.

Difference between static electricity and current electricity

Static electricity and current electricity are two different kinds of electricity.

Static electricity is only used for equipment such as computers and other electronic devices. It is also used in factories and other commercial buildings, where it can be used to power machinery and other devices.

Current electricity is the type of electricity that we use in our homes, offices, schools, and more. Current electricity powers everything from your computer to your fridge.

Current electricity refers to the amount of electricity delivered by a circuit. It is measured in Amperes (A), and it measures the amount of current flowing through a circuit.

History of static electricity

The scientist William Gilbert (1600 AD) was the first to reveal that light things are attracted to rubbed objects.

William Gilbert was an English philosopher, a physician, and a scientist.

Benjamin Franklin, a scientist, was the first to conduct lightning tests. He once flew a kite into a cloud while there was lightning, and the cloud’s static electric charges were discharged to the ground.

Forms of Static electric charges

Static electric charges can be divided into two categories. They are;

1. Static electric charges that are positive (+).

2. Static electric charges that are negative (-).

Static electricity is the movement of electrons from one object to another because of an imbalance between positive and negative electrical charges. The term “static” refers to the fact that these electrical charges remain in place until disturbed by some external force.

There are two basic types of static electricity: electrostatic and electromagnetic.

An electrostatic charge occurs when pairs of oppositely charged particles (e.g., electrons) come within close proximity to each other, causing them to repel each other and become separated from their original source; this effect is called ionization or polarization.

The second type of static electricity is called triboelectric charging (also known as dielectric charging or di-electrophoresis), which occurs when a dielectric material (e.g., grease on clothing) comes into contact with an electrically-charged body such as a human body or animal hair; this effect causes the material holding the charge to release it.

How to identify generated static electric chargers on a certain object

When two materials come into touch or are rubbed together, an electrical charge is generated.

Electrons can physically be rubbed off of one thing and onto the other when the materials are in touch. This isn’t to say that rubbing two materials together will make electrons move. Some materials are more prone to contribute electrons, whereas others are more likely to accept them. A triboelectric series is a list of materials arranged by their capacity to donate electrons.

The ability to donate electrons has been sorted into a list of materials. A triboelectric series is what it’s called.

What is triboelectric series?

The static electric potential of common materials is shown in the triboelectric series. When materials on the positive end come into contact with materials on the negative end, they give off electrons.

The triboelectric series is a method for calculating the electrical potential of materials. The triboelectric series is based on the idea that materials have different levels of surface charge, which means they attract or repel each other.

Hair readily gives up electrons, whereas Teflon is excellent at attracting them.

When two materials at opposite ends of the triboelectric series rub together, the materials at the positive end lose electrons and become positively charged, while the materials at the negative end gain electrons and become negatively charged.

Glass rubbed with silk produces positive (+) static electric charges, but ebonite rubbed with wool produces negative (-) static electric charges.

What happens when a glass rod is rubbed with a silk cloth?

  • The glass rod becomes positive.
  • Electrons from the glass rod move onto silk cloth.
  • According to the triboelectric series, glass is more likely to lose electrons and become positive.

What happens when an ebonite rod is rubbed with a wool cloth?

  • The Ebonite rod becomes negative.
  • Electrons from wool cloth move onto the ebonite rod.
  • According to the triboelectric series, ebonite is more like to gain electrons and become negative.

How to identify static electric charges?

The gold leaf electroscope is a device that is used to identify static electric charges. The gold leaf is placed on a metal plate and charged objects are brought towards it. When a charged object is brought towards the metal plate of this electroscope, the gold leaf deflects.

CC0/Public domain image from Internet Archive Book Images

Generation of static electric charges – What causes static electricity?

The generation of electric charges is a process that occurs when two objects are rubbed against each other. It involves the transfer of electrons from one object to another, thereby creating a negative charge on one object and a positive charge on the other object (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Negative charge transferred from one object to another

Interaction between positive and negative static electric charges

Static electric charges can interact with each other in several ways.

For example, they can repel each other or attract each other (depending on the direction the charges are pointing). If two static electric charges are placed in close proximity to one another, then they will push away from each other because of their like charges. If two static electric charges are placed on sides with unlike charges then they will attract one another because of their opposite charges.

Charging and discharging of static electric charges

How do the charging and discharging of static electric charges happen?

A simple way to understand this is by considering a charged capacitor. The capacitor is an electrical device that can store static electric charges. When you connect a battery to a capacitor, it will begin to charge up. Once enough charge has built up in the capacitor, you will have to allow it to discharge. This can be done by connecting a resistor across the capacitor and then connecting the voltage source across this resistor.

Charged items are neutralized as a result of the exchange of static electric charges.

When positively (+) and negatively (-) charged rods are brought near together for the first time, they attract each other. When they are brought together frequently, however, they do not attract or repel one other. The reason for this is that they are neutralized as a result of the first attraction’s charge exchange.

Static electricity causes a variety of phenomena. – Examples of static electricity


Lightning is caused by the accumulation of static electric charges on clouds.

Clouds include snow crystals and small drops of water. The wind blows quickly from the inside of the clouds. from the bottom to the top This results in crystals and water droplets brushing against each other. Because of the electrostatic rubbing Crystals and water droplets generate charges. There are two kinds of electrostatic charges. They are Positive and negative charges. It was discovered that positive charges exist in a cumulonimbus cloud collected in the upper region, whereas negative ions accumulate in the lower region.

Cloud air acts as an insulator. As a result, electrical charges do not easily pass-through air. As a result, a considerable number of electrical charges collect in the cloud’s higher and lower parts. When very huge amounts of charges are generated in this manner, a moment arises in which electricity may flow even through the air. Then there is a charge jump or an electric discharge. This is referred to as lightning.

In other words, it can be described as a sudden spark of these static electric charges within the cloud, between two clouds, or between a cloud and the ground.

Types of lightning

Lightning is categorized into three categories based on the locations where the charges jump.

  • Lightning from cloud to cloud
  • Lightning from cloud to air
  • Ground-to-cloud lightning

A cloud-to-cloud lightning is a charge jump that occurs between two areas of a charged cloud or between two clouds with different charges.

A release of charges accumulated in a cloud can sometimes occur to the surrounding air. It is air-to-cloud lightning.

When a charged cloud passes over a certain place on Earth, positive charges are induced on the ground as a result of the effect of the negative charges accumulating in the cloud’s lower section. When the quantities of charges in the cloud and on Earth rise, negative charges from the cloud jump to Earth at a certain point. This is referred to as cloud-to-ground lightning.

Uses of Static Electricity

Static electricity is the electricity that builds up between two objects that are touching each other. It can be used to create a spark when you touch a metal object on a wool sweater. Static electricity can also be used for charging your phone or other electronics. There are several uses of static electricity:

1. Charging electronics—Electronics like cell phones, iPods, and laptops use small amounts of electricity to keep their devices powered up and ready to go. This happens by using static electricity between two objects that come into contact with each other.

2. Creating sparks—When you touch a metal object to a wool sweater, you are creating friction, which creates static electricity. When the two objects make contact through friction, they generate sparks—which are tiny bursts of light given off by the metal object and wool sweater at the same time!

Static electricity on hair?

Static electricity is caused by the movement of positively charged particles (i.e., electrons) in a substance that has a negative charge (i.e., electrons). If your hair has a lot of static electricity because you’ve been rubbing your hair against a wool sweater.

Static electricity is caused by the presence of ions. This means that as you rub your hand against an object, like your comb, the electrons will jump to that object’s surface or to the opposite side of it. Damaged and dry hair is more likely to get static.

How to remove static electricity from the hair?

You can try waiting until your hair is completely dry and then rubbing it with a dryer sheet to remove any buildup of static from before you started drying it out. Also, hair dryers and hair care products like oils can help you with the static nature of your hair.

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Anuradhika Lakmali

Anuradhika Lakmali is a co-founder of Science A Plus learning network. She is working as a government teacher and has interest in chemistry, biology, phisics and self development.