January 10, 2019
9 Fun Things to Do with Static Electricity

In Honor of National Static Electricity Day

9 Fun Things to do With Static Electricity

Have you heard? Today is Static Electricity Day. It is a great time to watch sparks under a wool blanket, rub a balloon on a carpet to see where it sticks, or perform other hair-raising experiments.

What is Static Electricity

What is static electricity? It is a buildup of positive electrons on stationary electric charge It’s typically discharged when it comes into contact with another surface that has a negative charge. When this happens, there are sparks, crackling, or the attraction of dust, hair other small objects.

Want to learn more about static electricity? Below are 9 household experiments and games to help. They are low-cost, easy to set up, and will work just as well at home as in a classroom.

  1. Make Cereal Swing – String 10 -20 pieces of cereal on a thread. Charge a comb by running it through hair or over a wool blanket or sweater. Bring it near the stringed cereal to see what happens. Experiment Variations – Hold the comb near the string for an extended time. The cereal should jump away when the cereal has gained enough of the charge from the comb.
  2. Roll a Soda Can – Find an empty soda can and place it on its side on a smooth surface like a kitchen floor or gym. Then charge a blown-up balloon by rubbing it on your hair or on a carpet or blanket. When you approach the can with the balloon, the can will roll forward before it touches the balloon. Experiment Variations: Try changing up the size of the balloon to see if that makes a difference in how quickly the can will roll.
  3. Lift a Plastic Bag – Find an empty plastic bag and place it on a table. Next, grab a charged balloon and hold it close to the bag. You’ll see the bag lift and move. Experiment variations: Charge the balloon for longer or on different surfaces.
  4. Separate Salt and Pepper – Mix a small dish of salt and pepper, filling the dish about 1/3 of the way to the top. Next, charge a comb through your hair and rest it on top of the dish. The pepper should jump out of the dish and onto the comb. Experiment Variations: Have one person charge the comb and a second person hold it over the dish.
  5. Bend Water – Hold a charged comb next to a slow running faucet. See how the water “bends”. Experiment Variations: Try this on a humid day or in a humid area of the house, versus a dryer area.
  6. Pick Up Hole Punches – Charge a comb, filled balloon, or a plastic pen. Then hold it over a pile of small circles from a hole punch. See how many circles you can pick up. Experiment Variations: See if you can pick up more if you charge the item for longer.
  7. Light a Fluorescent Bulb – Build up a lot of charge on a comb or balloon and go into a darkened closet with the charged item and a fluorescent bulb. Touch the items together and view small sparks. Experiment Variations: Touch different parts of the bulb.
  8. Time a Static Charge – After building up a charge on a filled balloon, rub it next to a wall and time how long it takes before the balloon drops. Experiment Variations – try it in a more humid part of the house.
  9. Make Styrofoam Dance on Tin Foil – Wrap a few 1/4 inch Styrofoam balls with tin-foil. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and place a sheet of raised thin, polycarbonate over the baking sheet sides. Rub the plastic with a cloth then put the balls on it. When you approach the balls with your finger, they should dance. Experiment Variations: Place the balls under the raised piece of plastic.