Uses of static electricity

Static electricity can also be useful. Here are some examples from industry and everyday life.

Electrostatic precipitators

Many power stations burn fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Smoke is produced when these fuels burn.

Smoke comprises tiny solid particles, such as unreacted carbon, which can damage buildings and cause breathing difficulties. To avoid this, the smoke is removed from waste gases before they pass out of the chimneys. The electrostatic precipitator is the device used for this job.

The flow chart outlines how an electrostatic precipitator works.

Waste gases containing smoke particles pass through negatively charged metal grids and then positively charged collecting plates, resulting in waste gases without smoke particles.
  1. Smoke particles pick up a negative charge.
  2. Smoke particles are attracted to the collecting plates.
  3. Collecting plates are knocked to remove the smoke particles.


This flow chart outlines how a photocopier works. Ink jet printers use static electricity to guide a tiny jet of ink to the correct place on the page. Laser printers work in a similar way.

Image of document projected onto positively charged plate. Where light falls electrical charge leaks away. Negatively charged black toner particles attracted to the remaining positive areas.
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