Fun with Static Electricity

Fun with Static Electricity

Today we’re going to learn a bit about static electricity.  We all know you can have fun shocking your friends using static electricity.  I’m going to show you how to use Static Electricity to bend running water!

Preparation – what you will need:

  1. A balloon or a plastic hair comb
  2. Your bathroom or kitchen tap


  1. If you’re using the balloon, rub the balloon against your hair back and forth quite quickly.  When you feel your hair starting to stand up, you’ll know it’s ready.
  2. If you’re using the plastic comb, comb it through your hair about 10 times.  Again, when you feel your hair starting to stand up, you’ll know it’s ready.
  3. First things first, have some fun making your brother or sisters hair stand up.
  4. Laugh at how silly they look – And then get back to the science.
  5. Open the tap so that a thin steady stream of water is coming out.
  6. Bring the balloon or comb next to the water, closer and closer, but no so close that the water touches the balloon or comb.

If everything worked according to plan, you should see the water start bending towards the balloon or comb.

To make it a bit interesting:

  1. Figure out how far the water bends and make a mental note of where it lands in the sink or basin.
  2. Then place a cup in the sink or basin at the point where the water will bend to (not straight under the tap).
  3. Then tell your friends you can fill the cup without putting the cup directly under the tap.
  4. Get your balloon or comb ready by rubbing it against your head again.
  5. Make your friends hair stand up for a quick laugh again 🙂
  6. Then open the water and do your thing with the balloon or comb.
  7. Have your friends bow down in amazement at how cool you are!

But why did it do that??

Three things you need to know:

  1. Everything in the world is made up of Atoms.
  2. Atoms themselves are made up of 2 particles.  One called a Proton which is positively charged.  And one called an Electron which is negatively charged.
  3. Atoms can share electrons.  That means that electrons can move between atoms.

If you’ve ever played with two magnets you’ll know that only the positive and negative sides of the magnet stick to each other.  And if you put the two positive ends together they push each other apart.

Now, when you rub the balloon or comb against your hair, it causes some of the electrons to move from your hair onto the balloon or comb.  And because there are now more electrons on the balloon (or comb), the balloon has more negative charge than positive charge.

Then when you bring the balloon close to the water, the negative charge on the balloon attracts the positive charges in the atoms in the water.  So much so that it causes the stream of water to bend.

Neat huh?

An everyday example of static electricity:

LIGHTNING!  You’ve probably noticed that sometimes when you’re playing with static electricity and you touch something metal like a doorknob you get a little shock.  That happens when there is enough difference in the amount of charge of static electricity between you and the doorknob that the electrons literally jump between your and the doorknob.  Lightning is just an extreme example.  The Earth is REALLY big and so are clouds.  When the water molecules in clouds rub up against each other and the atoms in the air, huge amounts of electrons move between the atoms creating a VERY high concentration of static electricity in the clouds.  Then when there is enough of a difference between the charge in the clouds and the charge on the Earth, it causes the electrons to jump between the clouds and the Earth causing the awesome lightning bolts we see in the sky during a storm.

Resized drew brain








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