What Is Static Electricity?

Mar 9, 2020

If you’ve ever discovered two socks stuck firmly together as you take your laundry out of the dryer or gotten a shock after crossing a carpeted room to flip on a light switch, you’ve had a personal experience with static electricity.

Let’s take a closer look at what static electricity is, how it forms and a few of the ways that we can see it in our daily lives.

What is Static Electricity?

Minuscule particles called atoms make up all physical matter on earth. Each atom contains even smaller components that carry opposing electrical charges. Electrons carry a negative charge, and protons carry a positive one.

The two charges typically balance each other out, giving most objects a neutral charge. However, certain circumstances or actions can cause atoms to pick up additional electrons from surrounding atoms, and the affected object takes on an overall negative charge. This build-up of electrons is more commonly known as static electricity.

Where Does Static Electricity Come From?

Certain objects are much more likely to harbor static electricity than others. While some atoms have extremely strong bonds between their electrons, others have weaker bonds. Friction can cause atoms with stronger electrical bonds to pick up electrons from weaker atoms.

One example of this concept is a person walking across a carpeted surface. Since the human body’s atoms have stronger electrical bonds than those in the carpet, you pick up some of the carpet’s electrons as your feet move across the floor’s surface. This transfer causes static electricity to build up in your body.

How Does Static Electricity Impact Our Lives?

Lightning is one of the most noticeable forms of static electricity in nature. Lightning bolts occur when opposing electrical charges build up within storm clouds. The blinding flash is a massive static electricity spark that temporarily neutralizes the atmospheric charge.

A photocopy machine is one example of how humans have put static electricity to work. These machines take advantage of electron transfer to move and hold positively charged ink particles onto a negatively charged paper surface.

Static electricity may seem like an annoyance around the house, but it’s always wise to respect any form of electrical activity. After all, the same electron process that sticks your laundry together can also produce significant power and purpose.

At CMC Electric, our full-service, Raleigh electricians are licensed, trained, and equipped with up-to-date knowledge of the latest industry standards and local building codes. Call us at (919) 694-4454 to request a service or contact us online.

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