Summer of Science: Making moves with Static Electricity

3 demonstrations on how to change the charges of household objects

Summer of Science: Making moves with Static Electricity
Making moves with Static Electricity

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - From lightning strikes to light bulbs, it’s always exciting to see electricity at work. Even regular tasks like combing your hair, taking off a blanket or sweater can cause a charge. This is also known as static electricity created by an unbalance of charges between two objects. Here are 3 simple ways to show this electricity with a few items you have laying around the house.

Ingredients for all 3 demonstrations:

- A PVC pipe (or a balloon)

- Fuzzy material (a thick carpet, towel, woolly blanket, or even a head of hair all can work)

DEMO 1: Rolling a Soda Can

You’ll need an empty aluminum can

Step 1: Rub the PVC Pipe on the fuzzy material to generate a different charge.

Step 2: Tilt the can on it’s side. Hold the PVC pipe an inch or two away from the can and watch the attraction forces at work.

Why it works: When you rub the PVC pipe on the fuzzy material, electrons build up a negative charge on the pipe. These electrons can then pull light and positively charged objects!

Moving an aluminum can with static electricity
Moving an aluminum can with static electricity (Source: WMBF)

DEMO 2: Levitating Plastic Bag

You’ll need a plastic bag and scissors

Step 1: Cut a ring out of a plastic blag.

Step 2: Rub the ring and the PVC pipe on the fuzzy material.

Step 3: Drop the ring over the PVC pipe. Balance the pipe and keep the ring floating as long as you can!

Why it works: While opposite charges attract, similar forces repel! Since both the pipe and plastic are negatively charged, they don’t want to be next to each other and the forces will force the plastic ring to float since it is so light.

Using repelling forces
Using repelling forces

DEMO 3: Bending Flowing Water

Step 1: Turn a faucet on and have a small, but steady stream.

Step 2: Rub the PVC pipe on the fuzzy material.

Step 3: Hold the pipe near the stream of water and see the water bend towards the pipe!

Why it works: The water flowing out has a positive charge, which is drawn to the negatively charged pipe.

Using an attracting force to change the stream of water
Using an attracting force to change the stream of water

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