Everything in the world consists of tiny particles called “atoms.” Atoms contain even tinier particles called “protons,” “neutrons” and “electrons.”

Most atoms are neutral, which means the protons (positive-charge particles) are balanced with the electrons (negative-charge particles), so they cancel each other out.

Sometimes, however, the outer layer of an atom gets rubbed off. This creates atoms with a slightly positive charge.

The item that rubs off the outer layer of the atom “steals” some of the extra electrons, giving it a slightly negative charge. We call this built-up electric charge “static electricity.”

When you come in from playing in the snow and remove your hat, the hat rubs your hair and electrons move from your hair to the hat, creating a static charge. When objects have the same charge, they repel each other, which means they try to get as far from each other as possible.

This is why static electricity makes your hair stand up. Each hair has a negative charge and repels against the other hairs.

When people think of static electricity, they often think of the shock it can cause. If you have ever scooted your sock-covered feet across the carpet, you have probably experienced the zap of static electricity.

As you walk over carpet in socks, your feet rub electrons off the carpet, leaving you with a slightly negative static charge. When you reach for a doorknob, you get a shock as electrons jump from you to the knob, which conducts electricity.

You’ve probably noticed that static electricity is more noticeable during the winter months. This is because the air is very dry.

In the summer, the humidity and moisture in the air help electrons move more quickly, which makes it harder to build up a big static charge.

 

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    • Hi there, Angelina! We’re so excited that you commented today! We Wonder if something happened to all the old comments while we were tidying up Wonderopolis– We’ll be sure to check with our Wonder Friends to see if there are any comments that are out of place! Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

      We make sure that EVERYONE has a chance to comment at Wonderopolis– and we sure are glad you’re here now! Did you learn anything new about static electricity? :)

  1. We are studying electricity in our science class and we learned that our hair can contain static electricity.

    We also learned that static electricity is more noticeable during the winter months.

    • HOW cool! We’re so excited to hear that our Wonder Friends in Mrs. McWilliams Gr. 6 Science are WONDERing with us today! It’s SUPER that our Wonder connected to your lesson about static electricity! Thanks for sharing what you have learned, too! :-)

  2. Enjoyed the article Wonder! I am a first year teacher and enjoy your site! I look forward to using the site in the future.

    • Welcome to Wonderopolis, Ms. Inabinett! We’re thrilled you’re here and we look forward to WONDERing with you and your students soon! Have a WONDERful Wednesday! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is static electricity?
  • Why do you sometimes get shocked when you touch a doorknob?
  • Why is static electricity more common in the winter?

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Wonder #98- Static Electricity Static Image2Vimeo Video

Try It Out

What does cereal have to do with science? Get ready to snap, crackle and jump as you harness the power of static electricity to make cereal dance.

 

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Do you know Thomas Alva Edison? His genius gave us electric lights and a system that produced and delivered electrical power. Visit the online Edison Invents! exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to learn all about Edison and his many world-changing inventions.

 

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