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Everything you know about static electricity is wrong.



From Ars Technica via Wired

For many of us, static electricity is one of the earliest encounters we have with electromagnetism, and it’s a staple of high school physics. Typically, it’s explained as a product of electrons transferred in one direction between unlike substances, like glass and wool, or a balloon and a cotton T-shirt (depending on whether the demo is in a high school class or a kids’ party). Different substances have a tendency to pick up either positive or negative charges, we’re often told, and the process doesn’t transfer a lot of charge, but it’s enough to cause a balloon to stick to the ceiling, or to give someone a shock on a cold, dry day.

Nearly all of that is wrong, according to a paper published in today’s issue of Science. Charges can be transferred between identical materials, all materials behave roughly the same, the charges are the product of chemical reactions, and each surface becomes a patchwork of positive and negative charges, which reach levels a thousand times higher than the surfaces’ average charge.

continued . . .
Jul 2, 2010
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saw this earlier today, wonder how long it'll take before they stop teaching that


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Everything you know about static electricity is wrong.
Does this mean that nothing is wrong? :p


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Chemical reaction? I find that hard to believe.
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I'm going with Ford on this one. I call BS. Explain lightning then?


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Need more info on this. I find it hard to believe as well...


Sorry guys, if you read the article you know as much as I do. If anyone wants to research it though, I'd be interested.
Apr 2, 2011
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Chemical reaction, maybe you read the article differently than I did.

The simplest explanation I can offer is that this article looks at "nano-scale mosaics" in terms of atomic charges.

On a nano-scale molecule have a charge, just like iron does on a micro scale. These regions are arranged randomly, and thus you don't experience magnetic forces because one tends to be canceled by another. In metals, you can force these regions to align to one direction by passing a directional current through the metal, or exposing it to a magnetic field. The article suggests the same thing, but the charge zones (mosaics in the article) are much much smaller.

Particles are therefore "ripped" off on surface by the friction, and align on the other surface in non-randomized patterns. These patterns are highly directional, and thus form a charge. The "static cling" is simply induced charge between the ripped off particles, and the surface they came from.

I can see this as mildly useful for deposition (the technique used in the production of LCDs and Plasma screens), but otherwise a rather wasteful use of time. It does not change the macro scale application of static charges. Most humans don't tough the micro, let alone nano, scale universe.