Electric current

Static Electricity. Definition And Examples

Static electricity. Definition and examples

Static electricity is an imbalance of electrical charges in a material.

Materials are made up of atoms with charged particles. Atoms are made up of neutrons and protons in the nucleus and electrons around it. Protons are positively charged and neutrons negative. An atom has the same number of positively charged protons as negatively charged electrons.

Imagine we have two conductive materials (A and B). Material A and material B are very close, the electrons can jump from one material to another. For example from A to B. Material A loses electrons and B gains them.

The result of this electron transfer is that Material A will have more protons than electrons. That is, it will have a positive charge. Material B, with more electrons, will have an excess of negative charge.

Materials with a different charge (positive, negative) attract each other. Charges attract those with different polarity.

The charge remains until it can be removed by an electric current or electric shock. One common cause of static charge buildup is contact between solid materials. When the materials are separated they retain this charge imbalance.

What is the difference between ordinary electricity and static electricity? According to the static electricity definition, the flow of electrons is not constant. In ordinary electricity, electrons flow constantly through electrical conductors.

In the subsequent separation of these bodies, each of them retains its electric charge creating static electricity. As the distance between them increases the potential difference increases.

Examples of static electricity

Static electricity is very widespread in everyday life. 

  • The action of rubbing against a wool mat. If a wool mat is spread on the floor, then by rubbing, the human body can receive a negative electric charge.

  • Electrification of a plastic comb is another example of static electricity. With this example, with the friction of the comb with the hair, there is an electron transfer. The comb, which is negatively charged, attracts positive particles. For example, the hair that has lost a big amount of electrons.

  • A balloon or a plastic bag rubbed against wool clothing. If we rub an inflated balloon on a wool sweater it is statically charged. If we approach it to the ceiling, it remains stuck because they attract due to the difference in charges. It happens because of the static cling.

  • A balloon that touches hair it might appear that the hair takes on a life of its own.

Static cling is the tendency for light objects to stick to other objects owing to static electricity.

The electrostatic discharge passes at very high voltage and extremely low current intensities.

On a dry day, the comb example can lead to a higher accumulation of a static charge. However, the current of your release will be so small that it often cannot even be felt.

Electronic components

On the other hand, high voltages can be dangerous for elements of various electronic devices: processors, transistors, etc.

Electronics is an example where static electricity is generated

Therefore, when working with electronic components, it is recommended to take measures to avoid the accumulation of static charges. The use of an anti-static strap is highly recommended by manipulating some devices.

Lightning bolts from storms

As a result of the movement of air currents saturated with water vapor, storm clouds form. Storm clouds are carriers of static electricity. Electric discharges from between clouds with the opposite charge or with the ground.

When a critical potential difference is reached, a lightning strike occurs between the clouds, on the earth. It cal also happens in the near-cosmic layer of the planet.

In addition to lightning, storm clouds can cause dangerous electrical potentials in isolated metallic objects due to electrostatic induction.

Benjamin Franklin is the scientist who discovered that lightning bolt was electricity.

What produces static electricity?

The effects of static electricity may be experienced every day. These might include getting a shock from walking on a synthetic fiber carpet and then touching a metal door handle. This effect can be felt on hair by sticking to a comb.

Electric charges can pass from one body to another for the following reasons:

  • By contact. Triboelectric effect Electrons can jump between materials in contact. Materials with weakly bonded electrons tend to lose them, while materials with poorly filled outer layers tend to lose them.

  • Static energy may be generated because of the pressure. It is the piezoelectric effect. The applied mechanical stress generates a charge separation in certain types of crystals and ceramic molecules.

  • By heat energy. It is called the pyroelectric effect. Heating generates a charge separation in the atoms or molecules of certain materials.

  • An electrostatically charged object approaching a neutral object causes electrons to pass from the charged object to the neutral one.


Static electricity is the passage of electrons from one material to another. This transfer generates a variation in the electrical charge of the materials.

The difference between home electricity is that in-home electricity electrons flow continuously.


Published: January 23, 2020
Last review: July 23, 2020