# static electricity and static discharge

## static discharge

What happens when you have become negatively charged and your hand approaches the metal doorknocker? Your negatively charged hand repels electrons in the metal, so the electrons move to the other side of the knocker. This makes the side of the knocker closest to your hand positively charged. As your negatively charged hand gets very close to the positively charged side of the metal, the air between your hand and the knocker also becomes electrically charged. This allows electrons to suddenly flow from your hand to the knocker. The sudden flow of electrons is static discharge. The discharge of electrons is the spark you see and the shock you feel.

## how lightning occurs

Another example of static discharge, but on a much larger scale, is lightning. You can see how it occurs in the following diagram (Figure 1.1). During a rainstorm, clouds develop regions of positive and negative charge due to the movement of air molecules, water drops, and ice particles. The negative charges are concentrated at the base of the clouds, and the positive charges are concentrated at the top. The negative charges repel electrons on the ground beneath them, so the ground below the clouds becomes positively charged. At first, the atmosphere prevents electrons from flowing away from areas of negative charge and toward areas of positive charge. As more charges build up, however, the air between the oppositely charged areas also becomes charged. When this happens, static electricity is discharged as bolts of lightning.

## what is static electricity

Static electricity is a buildup of electric charges on objects. Charges build up when negative electrons are transferred from one object to another. The object that gives up electrons becomes positively charged, and the object that accepts the electrons becomes negatively charged. This can happen in several ways. One way electric charges can build up is through friction between materials that differ in their ability to give up or accept electrons. When you wipe your rubber-soled shoes on the wool mat, for example, electrons rub off the mat onto your shoes. As a result of this transfer of electrons, positive charges build up on the mat and negative charges build up on you. Once an object becomes electrically charged, it is likely to remain charged until it touches another object or at least comes very close to another object. Thats because electric charges cannot travel easily through air, especially if the air is dry. Q: Youre more likely to get a shock in the winter when the air is very dry. Can you explain why? A: When the air is very dry, electric charges are more likely to build up objects because they cannot travel easily through the dry air. This makes a shock more likely when you touch another object.

## instructional diagrams

No diagram descriptions associated with this lesson

## questions

electric charges can travel easily through dry air.

a. true

-->  b. false

lighting can occur between a cloud and

a) another part of the same cloud.

b) a different cloud.

c) the ground.

-->  d) any of the above

lightning is an example of static discharge.

-->  a. true

b. false

during a rainstorm, negative charges become concentrated at the

a) surface of the ground.

b) top of the clouds.

-->  c) base of the clouds.

d) two of the above

## diagram questions

No diagram questions associated with this lesson