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Static Electricity

Introduction: As a child, you may remember having gone up to the front of a television and having seen small bits of dust collecting on the television screen. Or, if you've ever used a cloth and rubbed it against a pen, you may have noticed that the pen now can attract small bits of paper. In both of these scenarios, a branch of physics known as electrostatics comes into play, which deals with the properties of electric charges that have no acceleration and that are either slow-moving or stationary.

Electrostatics consists of many concepts and principles, but there are some that are central to static electricity as a whole. One of these concepts is the fact that conductors of electricity tend to have free, negatively-charged particles known as electrons, whereas insulators do not. Moreover, objects generally become charged as a result of gaining or losing these electrons. This matters because negatively-charged objects generally have a lot of electrons, or an excess of electrons, whereas positively-charged objects generally have very few electrons, or a deficit of electrons.

The charge of an individual object plays a role in whether there is attraction or repulsion. Attraction between objects, when the objects move towards one another, generally happens between objects with opposite charges or between a charged object and a neutral object. The neutral object will generally attract to charged objects because charges in the neutral object will localize to separate sides. Repulsion of objects, on the other hand, occurs when the objects move away from another, resulting from the objects having the same charges.

Aside from the interactions between objects in terms of repulsion and attraction, it is also important to consider what is known as the triboelectric series in physics, in which objects are listed in order of the polarity of the separate of charges when the object is in contact with another object. A material at the bottom of this series will acquire a negative charge when in contact with a material at the top of this series. The further apart that two materials are on the series, the greater the charge is that is transferred from one object to another.

Directions for This Lesson: In this lesson, you will learn about static electricity. First, try the practice questions to determine what you already know about static electricity. Then, watch the video lessons to learn more about static electricity.

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