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GCSE Physics Static Electricity

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P2.4 Static Electricity

  • Some insulating materials can become electrically charged when they are rugged against each other. This static electricity builds up when electrons (negatively charged) are ‘rubbed off’ one material onto another. The material that gains electrons becomes negatively charged. The material that loses electrons is left with a positive charge.
  • E.g. 1 rubbing a polythene rod with a dry cloth transfers electrons to the rod from the cloth. Therefore, the rod gains electrons and so becomes negatively charged while the cloth loseselectrons and becomes positively charged.
  • E.g. 2 rubbing Perspex rod with a dry cloth transfers electrons from the rod onto the cloth. Therefore, the rod loses electrons and so becomes positively charged while the cloth gains electrons and becomes
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Current is the rate of flow of electrical charge. Electrical charge can easily flow through metals because they contain conduction (delocalised) electrons. These electrons are not confined to a single atom. This is the reason why metals are food conductors of electricity. Insulators cannot conduct electricity because all the electrons are held within atomsA charged body can be dischargedsafely by connecting it to earth with a conductor (e.g. a metal wire) (We say that the conductor is earthed). If the body is positively charged, electrons will transfer from the conductor to the body. So the conductor becomes positively charged because it loses electrons. If the body is negatively charged, electrons transfer to the conductor from the charged body. So the conductor becomes negatively charged as it gains electrons. The conductor can only hold charge if it is insulated (isolated)
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Dangers of Static:Pipe Problems: When a road tanker pumps oil or petrol into a storage tank, the connecting pipe must be earthed. If it isn’t, the pipe could become charged. A build up of charge would cause a spark. This could cause an explosion as the fuel vapour reacts with oxygen in the air. Antistatic Floors: To eliminate static charge in operating theatres, an antistatic material is used for the floor surface. This material is a poor electrical conductor so it conducts charge to Earth.

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