Our weather has been so cold and dry lately – not my idea of perfect weather! But, it’s perfect for static electricity science experiments!

We did two experiments that quickly demonstrate the effects of static electricity in an exciting way.

Two Static Electricity Science Experiments

Experiment #1: “Magically” Separate Pepper from Salt

Step 1: Put some salt and pepper in a small dish. Stir it together.

Step 2: Have your child give a plastic comb a static charge by running it through their hair. (The book said to use wool cloth, but we don’t have anything wool…) By the way, we discovered that if one person charges the comb and then hands it to another person, it does not stay charged! The person who wants to do the experiment must also be the one who charges the comb!

Step 3: Hold the statically charged comb over the dish, and the comb will attract the pepper causing it to jump up out of the dish! This was really pretty amazing to watch! If you hold the comb too close, the salt will jump up too, so it might take a little practice for just the right “magic” effect!

Experiment #2: Use a Comb to Bend Water

This experiment came from my 5th grade science teacher, and I have remembered it all these years!

Simply charge your plastic comb as you did in experiment 1. Then, hold your comb close to (but NOT TOUCHING!) a small stream of water coming from the faucet.

Then, watch the water bend! It was hard to get our timing right to get a good picture of this one, but if you do it on a very dry day, you’ll get results that will amaze your kids!

The Science Behind These Experiments:

All matter is made up of atoms, and all atoms are made up of protons (positive charge), neutrons (no charge), and electrons (negative charge). The charges (negative and positive) are usually balanced in each atom, and so the atom is not charged. However, when you rub two things together (like a comb and hair), some electrons move from one to the other, causing one item to have a positive charge and the other to have a negative charge. They now attract each other.

Static electricity does not build up very well on a humid day because the charged particles are likely to attach themselves to water molecules in the air.

Linked to Frugal Friday

7 Comments

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  1. Kristi @ Creative Connections for Kids Feb 13, 2011

    This is wonderful experiment. Static is so much fun and quite a wonder to play with it. One thing I like to do is to turn the light out in our laundry room then remove the clothes from the dryer. (Don't use fabric softener or dryer sheets) Then watch the sparks fly as you take the clothes out.

    Reply
    1. Rachel | Racheous Oct 10, 2013

      How great! My son would LOVE seeing the water bend!!

      Reply
      1. copykick.com Apr 19, 2014

        This is a topic that's close to my heart...
        Many thanks! Exactly where are your contact details though?

        Reply
        1. Em Apr 26, 2014

          Rub a ballon on hair to create static then hold over tiny torn up pieces of paper or for best results empty a hole puncher - the little pieces of paper jump up and down between table and balloon as the electric charge within them changes from positive to negative and back

          Reply
          1. Sarah Apr 26, 2014

            That's a great idea!

            Reply
            1. Death itself Dec 7, 2017

              That is an amazing idea

              Reply
              1. Pizza Hut Dec 11, 2017

                Me and my friend are doing this for a project and we hope it really works

                Reply
                1. deathitself Dec 12, 2017

                  Hey are you pizza hut the youtuber

                  Reply
                  1. yeah right Mar 16, 2018

                    wow!

                    Reply
                  2. Will May 23, 2020

                    Great experiment for sure, but the charge isn't alternating between positive and negative. The balloon acquires negative charge from the hair and becomes a big, negatively charged object. The paper is neutral but, when close to the balloon *some* of the electrons in the paper are repelled to the far side of the paper, leaving it still neutral but polarized (one side is positive, the other is negative). Since the positive side of the neutral but polarized paper is closer to the negative balloon the paper "jumps" to the balloon. But, upon contact, some of the excess electrons on the charged balloon migrate into the uncharged paper and it becomes negative too and is repelled. So: first it's attraction by polarization, then the paper is charged by conduction (contact) and then it's mutual repulsion. When the paper hits the table after being repelled it'll lose it's excess charge to the table and the whole thing can repeat.

                    Reply
                2. Kelsey Eastburn Dec 10, 2017

                  Can you tell me which book you're using as a reference? Thanks for the great ideas!

                  Reply
                  1. sexy man Aug 6, 2018

                    very good honey

                    Reply
                    1. .lib Nov 10, 2019

                      Does the comb have a positive or negative charge?

                      Reply

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