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Understand Static Electricity and Electric Fields

In this worksheet, students will be given an introduction to static electricity in relation to electron transfer and electric fields.

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Have you ever touched the edge of the car door after a long trip and given yourself an electric shock? It can be shocking (get it...), but did it make you wonder why it had happened? Was the car picking on you, or was there some science that could explain this sudden uptake in electrical shocks... 

 

Protons are fixed in the nucleus of an atom, but electrons are free to move from one material to another, like when you rub two insulating materials together. The accumulation of electrons in a material is called static electricity. Try rubbing a balloon on your jumper, then see how it sticks to the wall. This is because when you rub it, electrons from your jumper give the balloon a negative charge. This then repels the electrons on the wall and the positive charge left attracts the negative charge of the balloon. The image below shows how hair is attracted to the balloon due to static electricity.

 

image of a babies hair being attracted to a balloon.  

  

 

Lightning is also caused by static electricity (see diagram). Lightning can injure people and damage buildings. 

 

 

Image showing how lightning is created

 

Static electricity can build up in aircraft as they move through the air, and in tankers that deliver fuel to filling stations, so they need to be discharged appropriately. However, static electricity can also be useful in electrostatic spray painting.

Going back to the example of the balloon, the attraction between the balloon and the wall is due to the electric force, which occurs when the charged balloon is held some distance away from the wall. It is a non-contact force, which acts inside its electric field. There is a formula that shows the magnitude (size and strength) of an electric field:

 

electric field strength = force ÷ charge  

 

Now let's have a go at some questions on this.

Match the atom particles with the correct charge.

Column A

Column B

Protons
Negative
Electrons
Positive

Which particles are free to move between different materials?

What do we call the accumulation of electrons in a material?

Predict what will happen when you rub your hair with a balloon and then place the balloon close to some small pieces of paper.

Nothing will happen

The pieces of paper will start flying around the balloon

The pieces of paper will be attracted to the balloon and stick to it

What happens when you rub your hair with the balloon?

Protons accumulate on the balloon

Electrons accumulate on the balloon

The balloon bursts

Think back to question four. Why are the pieces of paper attracted to the balloon?

Electrons on the balloon attract protons on the pieces of paper

Protons on the balloon attract electrons on the pieces of paper

Electrons on the balloon attract electrons on the pieces of paper

How is lightning created?

Positive and negative charges move away from each other

Positive and negative charges move towards each other

Static electricity can be dangerous. Which of the options below are an example of this?

Accumulation in aircraft

Electrostatic spray painting

Sticking balloons to walls

Buildings damaged by lightning

Type the two words needed  to complete the sentence correctly.

 

The electric force acts inside its e_______ f____.

How can you calculate the strength of an electric field?

Add the force to the charge

Multiply the force by the charge

Divide the force by the charge

  • Question 1

Match the atom particles with the correct charge.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Protons
Positive
Electrons
Negative
EDDIE SAYS
Do you feel positive about this activity? Let's hope so! Protons are positively charged and electrons carry a negative charge. It can be helpful to remember that both the words proton and positive begin with the same letter, so they already match each other.
  • Question 2

Which particles are free to move between different materials?

CORRECT ANSWER
electrons
EDDIE SAYS
The answer needed was just one word - the word electrons. Did you get that right? Protons are fixed to the nucleus of an atom, but electrons orbit the nucleus, so they are free to move to different materials when they come into contact.
  • Question 3

What do we call the accumulation of electrons in a material?

CORRECT ANSWER
static electricity
EDDIE SAYS
This time, the answer needed two words to be marked as correct - static electricity. The accumulation of electrons in a material is called static electricity. It is 'static' because it is not moving.
  • Question 4

Predict what will happen when you rub your hair with a balloon and then place the balloon close to some small pieces of paper.

CORRECT ANSWER
The pieces of paper will be attracted to the balloon and stick to it
EDDIE SAYS
Have you ever done this experiment - it can be fun to do and will help you to remember about static electricity. The pieces of paper will be attracted to the balloon and stick to it due to static electricity. There are opposite charges on the balloon and the paper and so they will be attracted to each other. Remember that opposites attract.
  • Question 5

What happens when you rub your hair with the balloon?

CORRECT ANSWER
Electrons accumulate on the balloon
EDDIE SAYS
Did you get this one right? The third option could, of course, be correct if you rub very hard, but it isn't the correct answer here! Electrons from your hair accumulate on the balloon. This gives them a negative charge and they try and get away from each other. This will cause your hair to stick up in the air!
  • Question 6

Think back to question four. Why are the pieces of paper attracted to the balloon?

CORRECT ANSWER
Electrons on the balloon attract protons on the pieces of paper
EDDIE SAYS
Three similar sounding answers, so you need to work through these options slowly and think about opposites attracting each other. Electrons on the balloon attract protons on the pieces of paper, so the paper 'sticks' to the balloon.
  • Question 7

How is lightning created?

CORRECT ANSWER
Positive and negative charges move towards each other
EDDIE SAYS
Well done if you remembered the all-important fact that opposites attract! Positive and negative charges move towards each other. The charges in this case are massive and form a huge strike of electricity moving from static to actual electricity.
  • Question 8

Static electricity can be dangerous. Which of the options below are an example of this?

CORRECT ANSWER
Accumulation in aircraft
Buildings damaged by lightning
EDDIE SAYS
Hopefully, you didn't tick the third option - there's no danger in sticking a balloon to the wall, unless you're standing on a tall ladder at the time! Two dangers of static electricity are its accumulation in aircraft and buildings damaged by lightning. Lightning can also injure or kill people.
  • Question 9

Type the two words needed  to complete the sentence correctly.

 

The electric force acts inside its e_______ f____.

CORRECT ANSWER
electric field
electrical field
EDDIE SAYS
Could you have worked out the two words without the starting letters being provided? Well done if that's so! The electric force acts inside its electric field. The closer it is to the charged object, the more force there is that acts.
  • Question 10

How can you calculate the strength of an electric field?

CORRECT ANSWER
Divide the force by the charge
EDDIE SAYS
Lots of maths terms here, but did you remember the equation that was given to you in the Introduction? Electric field strength = force ÷ charge The electric field strength can be calculated by dividing the force by the charge - so the correct answer is option three. Another activity completed - well done for all your hard work. Why not go and have some fun with those experiments mentioned in these questions!
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