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Science

Electrostatics - sparks

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Good 'conductors', such as metals, allow an electric charge to pass through them, but insulators, such as plastic, do not. A substance that gains electrons becomes negatively charged, while a substance that loses electrons becomes positively charged.

You can get an electrostatic shock if you're charged and you touch something that is earthed or if you're earthed and you touch something that is charged.

Static electricity

Insulating materials

Metals are good conductors, which means that electric charges move easily through them. Materials such as plastic, wood, glass and polythene are insulators. This means they do not allow electric charges to move through them. Some insulators can become electrically charged when they're rubbed together.

Charged objects

How can you tell if an insulator is charged?

  • If a plastic rod is rubbed with a duster it attracts small pieces of paper.
  • When a balloon is rubbed on a jumper it can stick to a wall.

Some dusters are designed to become charged so that they attract dust.

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