Posted tagged ‘Electrostatics’

A Shocking Lesson

March 14, 2010

Static electricity is an electrifying experience! Sometimes, when you come in contact with a piece of metal, you can receive an electric shock, particularly if you are wearing rubber shoes (like sneakers or runners). Why?

Well, the reason is that you are storing an unbalanced charge. If you remember from our previous studies of the atom, most atoms have no net charge; they have the same number of protons as electrons, and thus have an overall charge of zero. How do you get an excess of charge? Well, that means you have more or less electrons than protons (you can’t gain more protons without changing your nuclear structure, so you must gain or lose electrons.)  and thus you are charge imbalanced. As soon as you touch (or even come close enough that a spark can jump to) another object, the charge will move so that it is more evenly balanced across the two objects. This is called static discharge and can be quite painful! In fact, the average human body can store approximately 3.5 kV of static charge!