May 5, 2022

Let’s Learn About Static Electricity and Its Causes!

static electricity

Static electricity is called static because the electric charge is static or not moving, unlike dynamic electricity where the electric charge is always moving as a current. Essentially, this is an unbalanced electric charge on the surface of an object. When this occurs, the electric charge remains there until it’s released and disappear.

The word “electricity” comes from the Greek word “electron” which means amber, a type of stone made of fossilized tree resin. The stones attract small objects after being rubbed together. This phenomenon was later developed by a Greek scientist, Thales of Miletus, through experiments that resulted in the discovery of the electric charge.

What is static electricity?

Static electricity is an electric charge that is built up and then stays without moving in one area without flowing or moving. For example, when you rub a plastic ruler on your hair, the electrons (the negative charge) from the hair are transferred to the surface of a plastic ruler, leaving the hair with positive charge. Now that the plastic ruler has a negative electric charge, it can attract paper.

The release (or transfer) of charge when rubbing the two objects makes both of them charged with electrons. Electric charge is a physical quantity which affects different types of matters. The fact that an electric charge on a material surface can be neutralized by creating friction on the surface indicates that positive and negative electric charges don’t cancel each other out.

The magnitude of an electric charge will depend on the number of electrons an object has. The more the electrons an object has, the greater the electric charge. According to the theory of electrons, electrons that move from one atom to another are called free electrons. The objects that can transfer free electrons are called conductors.

What are the examples of static electricity?

Besides the act of rubbing a plastic ruler to the hair, there are various other activities in our daily life that create static electricity, both consciously or unconsciously. Here are some of them.

  • When you comb your hair, the hair will stand along with the movement of the comb. This can occur because of the electric charge transfer between the comb and the hair.
  • If you rub a glass rod with a silk fabric, both objects will attract each other. This occurs due to the jump of electrons from the glass rod to the silk fabric.
  • Both a plastic ruler and wool have a neutral charge. However, when they’re rubbed together, electrons jump from the cloth to the ruler.
  • When you bring your hand to the TV screen that has just been turned off, the hair on your hand will stand up. This occurs due to the presence of static electricity.

What causes static electricity?

Static electricity can occur due to a transfer of electric charge between two objects that are intentionally or unintentionally electrified by a static flow. There are at least three ways to create static electricity: rubbing, conduction, and induction. Let’s take a closer a look at each way.


There are materials that can be charged with static electricity, such as silk and glass. Glass has a positive electric charge, while silk has a negative electric charge. The transfer of electrons from the glass to the silk fabric creates static electricity.


Simply put, conduction is the approach of an electrically charged object to an uncharged object. This allows the object that previously had no electric charge to receive an electric charge.


Induction is separating electric charges in a conductor. It’s done by bringing an electrically charged object closer to another object in a neutral condition. The process of induction can be found when we investigate the electric charge of an object using an electroscope.

The theory of induction describes the concept where positive charges are attracted to an electroscope while negative charges move towards the leaves of the electroscope. The leaves of the electroscope move away from each other because they have the same electric charge, although it should be noted that static electricity can’t flow, unlike dynamic electricity that can flow through an electric circuit.

What is static electricity used for?

static electricity

Static electricity isn’t always harmful. It’s also beneficial for our everyday life through several applications.

Spray paint

Static electricity occurs when we use a spray paint, when there’s a friction between the spray pipe and the air. The paint droplets from the aerosol will turn into an electric charge. If the object to be painted is electrically charged, the paint droplets will be attracted to the object surface.

Laser Printer

In a laser printer, static electricity is used in parts, including fuser, photoreceptor drum, corona, wire, laser, and toner. When the positively charged drum rotates, the shining laser will move across the uncharged surface. The laser will draw on the negatively charged paper.

Also read: Capillarity: Definition, Formula, and Examples

Is static electricity dangerous?

Static electricity can cause sparks; for example, when a car or truck is moving, the friction between tires and the road causes negative charge while the metal adjacent to the tires can be positively charged by induction.  Fire will spark if the two opposite charges meet.

We’re at the end of our discussion about static electricity—the definition, examples, benefits, and dangers you need to know. Are you looking for a school that allows you to learn practical items related to natural science, like static electricity, through latest technology? Sampoerna Academy is your answer.

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