Electrostatics Demonstrations

Thomas B. Jones
Professor of Electrical Engineering
University of Rochester
Demonstrations | Acknowledgments

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The fundamental principles of electrostatics were all laboratory discoveries. To this day, science teachers around the world reveal these principles to students with simple lecture demonstrations. Click here for an excellent example of using demonstrations to help students "discover" the laws of electrostatics. Though electrostatics is regarded by some as a science of mostly historic significance, many industries and commercial operations exploit electrostatic phenomena to achieve useful ends or are forced to dealt with electrostatic nuisances or hazards. Examples of the beneficial exploitation of electrostatics include xerographic copy machines and electrostatic paint sprayers. On the other hand, there are electrostatic nuisances which can slow production, affect product quality, or damage equipment, and of course incendiary electrical discharges which can cause fires or explosions leading to injury or death. The demonstrations described at this web site focus on materials and tools common to modern manufacturing and commercial practices. Many should also serve to augment the science teacher's or hobbyist's repetoire, making it easier to reinforce the relationship between basic principles and practical situations.

To date, more than forty lecture/demonstrations have been presented around the world to audiences ranging from engineers and researchers to operating personnel and safety officers. Anyone interested in arranging a lecture/demonstration is invited to inquire by email.

The Demonstrations

TONAL ELECTROSTATIC VOLTMETER (TESV): reveals magnitude & sign of electrostatic charge before large audiences.

TRIBOELECTRIC CHARGING: using common implements & ordinary materials.

ELECTROPHORUS: reliable source of electrostatic charge & sparks.

MOVING CHARGE SENSOR: inexpensive alternative to the TESV.

PIEZOELECTRIC SPARKER: reliable electrostatic sparks even on humid days.

ELECTROSTATIC IGNITION: adds some excitement to electrostatics demonstrations.

COAXIAL APPARATUSES: demonstrate shielding & field collapse.

DISSECTIBLE CAPACITOR: shows voltage multiplication in fixed charge systems.

POWDER CHARGING APPARATUS: behavior of powders in grounded & ungrounded containers.

LEAF ELECTROSCOPE: convenient accessory for revealing charge & potential.

KAMACHI'S ELECTROSCOPE: demonstrates basic electrostatics principles.

ANTISTATIC BAGS: shielding protection for sensitive electronics.

CHARGE DISSIPATION: uses modern antistatic materials.

HUMIDITY FIGHTING TRICKS: for warm, humid days.



Financial support:
* 3M Company, St. Paul, MN & Austin, TX (USA)
* Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY (USA)
* GE Plastics, Inc., Pittsfield, MA (USA)

In-kind support:
* Alpha Innovations, Boston, MA (USA)
* Chapman Corp., Portland, ME (USA)
* DuPont, Inc., Chattanooga, TN (USA)
* Electrostatics, Inc., Harleysville, PA (USA)
* Monroe Electronics, Inc., Lyndonville, NY (USA)
* Nye Lubricants, Inc., New Bedford, MA (USA)
* TREK, Inc., Medina, NY (USA)
* Wabash Instrument Corp., Wabash, IN (USA)

Additional technical assistance:
* L.G. Britton, Union Carbide Company, Charleston, WV (USA)
* R. A. Morse, St. Albans School, Washington, DC (USA)
* S. Kamachi, Technology Institution of Industrial Safety, Tokyo (Japan)
* Y. Matsubara of the National Research Inst. of Fire & Disaster, Tokyo (Japan)
* P. Osborne, L. Begy, N. Nenadic, R. Williams, University of Rochester, NY (USA)
* G. Schmeig, Milwaukee, WI (USA)
* D. Whiteman, Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY (USA)

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Last modified: Monday, 15-Mar-2010 09:01:01 EDT