You touch the car door handle and ZAP. Sometimes all you do is reach over to borrow a pencil from your friend and ZAP. You take your hat off, especially on a cold winter day, and your hair stands straight up. Now isn't that a 'hair-raising' experience! Your pants are clinging to your legs and earlier in the morning when you went to the clothes drier, your socks were stuck to your sweater. We've all experienced these situations before. What's going on here? It's static electricity. We can feel it, ZAP! Sometimes we can hear it and at times we can even see it. But, what exactly is it?
Static electricity is the imbalance of positive and negative charges.
Here's how this works. Let's take a look at the hat and hair situation. As you take your hat off, it is rubbing against your hair. When your hair is rubbing against the hat, some of your hair's electrons ( negatives )are being rubbed off onto the hat. That means that there will be lots of positives left in your hair. Now, what do you know about having all these positves? LIKE CHARGES REPEL All your hairs are trying to get away from each other because they are all charged the same. The result - you are have a 'hair-raising' experience.
When you rub your hair with a balloon, or you rub a balloon against your clothes you are adding a whole bunch more electrons to the balloon. Your balloon becomes negatively charged. You then take the balloon over to the wall which is positively charged compared to the balloon. What happens? Remember??OPPOSITES ATTRACT The balloon is attracted to the wall - it sticks to the wall.
You can have an imbalance of positive and negative charges. Walk across a carpet and you may pick up some electrons. You will then be more negative and will have an unbalanced charge. When you go to touch someone, you will share that imbalanced charge with them. If you have a high level of electrons then when you touch that person (or object) ZAP! You may even see the spark. " OUCH "
Would you believe that lightning is just static electricity. That's all it is! However, as we all know it is very dangerous. Static elelctricity can build up so much that instead of seeing that little tiny spark we see a giant lightning bolt.
Lightning occurs because of the imbalance of positive and negative charges. During a thunderstorm the air is continually rising and dropping in the thundercloud which causes the imbalance of the charges. At the same time, the water and ice pellets rubbing together also help to make the positive and negative charges separate. When electrical energy between the positive and negative areas builds up and the electrons begin to jump, you have lightning. The electrical charges jump between the thundercloud and the ground as a lightning bolt.