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Shocking facts about static electricity from McGraw Hill's AccessScience

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Static Electricity Article by: A.G. Bailey, Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Southampton, United Kingdom. Access to this content is available to Ward's World readers for free from McGraw Hill's AccessScience, an award-winning, digital STEM resource containing exclusive articles written by expert scientists and engineers; biographies of well-known scientific figures; science news, videos, and animations; and much, much more. Instructors can use AccessScience to guide students on their research project journeys, to help students understand scientific concepts, to support distance learning efforts, in flipped classroom approaches, and in countless other ways. Ward's World and AccessScience have partnered to offer educators a no-obligation, free trial subscription to AccessScience. Request your free trial today to discover how valuable AccessScience can be for you and your students! Get your free trial now. Electric charge at rest, resulting from an imbalance of positive and negative electric charges on a surface or within a material. The imbalance of electric charges is generally produced by friction or electrostatic induction. The electric charges build up on or within a material until there is a release or discharge to another material. In this regard, static electricity is a familiarly encountered phenomenon, for instance when walking across carpet and then touching a metal doorknob. Extra electrons that have accumulated on and within the body transfer to the doorknob upon contact, resulting in an electric shock to the fingertip. Another common example of static electricity is when hair stands on end after the friction caused by taking off a knit hat (see illustration). In this instance, the negatively charged chair is drawn to the positively charged hat, while the accumulated electrons in the hair repel each other, causing the hair strands to separate. The discovery of static electricity is usually credited to the Greek philosopher Thales. In the sixth century BCE, Thales described experiments in which rubbed amber induced movement in nearby particles. It was not until the eighteenth century, when U.S. scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin carried out his kite-flying experiments in which he "captured" some thunderstorm electricity in a Leyden jar, that it was verified that thunderstorm electricity and static electricity were one and the same. Triboelectrification is the process whereby charge transfer between dissimilar materials, at least one of which must have a high electrical resistivity, occurs due to rubbing or mere contact, as in the prior example of the carpet-walking and doorknob-touching. In industrial contexts, contact and separation of materials occur during powder processing and the manufacture of plastic and other materials in sheet form. + ward ' s science A person takes off a knit hat, generating static electricity in their hair. (Credit: Brook Rieman/Getty Images) Key Concepts • Static electricity is electric charge at rest that results from an imbalance of positive and negative electric charges on a surface or within a material. • Electric charges build up on or within a material until there is a release or discharge to another material. • Triboelectrification is the process whereby charge transfer between dissimilar materials occurs through rubbing or mere contact. • The control of static electricity is important in a number of industrial processes.

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