Static electricity

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by aluminumpork, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. aluminumpork

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 3, 2013

    I just finished the page on static electricity and was just hoping to repeat my understanding of how it actually works. I find I have a hard time remembering concepts like this without attempting to explain them to others. I'd appreciate any feedback on this explanation, as I'm sure it'll go wrong some place :)

    Static electricity is created through the imbalance in the amount of electrons and protons between the atoms in two or more items. Normally, an atom has the same number of protons, neutrons and electrons; in this state the atom is considered neutrally charged.

    When two items are rubbed together, some electrons "jump" from atoms on one material and become part of the atoms in the other material. This action leaves source atoms at an electron deficit and the target atoms at an electron surplus. The atoms with fewer electrons than protons become positively charged and the atoms with greater electrons than protons become negatively charged.

    Since protons and electrons are naturally attracted to each other and the atoms don't have the charge balance they usually do, the atoms of the two items are attracted to each other and the items "stick". Likewise, since protons don't like to be near other protons and electrons don't like to be near other electrons, atoms of a similar charge repel each other.


    Did I get the basics down? Please feel free to destroy my explanation.

  2. tshuck

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 18, 2012
    It isn't necessary for an atom to have an equal number of neutrons as protons or electrons to remain 'normal'. See isotopes - some are stable while others will decay (radioactive). Your point would be better conveyed if it was to say that a neutral atom consists of an equal number of protons and electrons, leaving neutrons (as having no charge) out of a description of charge neutrality.

    For the most part, this is a reasonable understanding...
    aluminumpork likes this.
  3. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010

    The electrons can jump because they are "falling" to a lower energy, more stable state even though this creates a charge imbalance. Similar to the way salts dissolve in water; the anions pick up electrons from the cations. Both ions are then more stable (lower energy state) than if they remained neutrally charged.

    If you study physical chemistry (gaacckk :( ), you'll learn about electron orbital shells and such that helps explain this behavior.
  4. aluminumpork

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 3, 2013
    Thank you for your feedback. It's greatly appreciated!