Don’t be shocked, National Static Electricity Day is celebrated every January 9th. Static Electricity Day observes static electricity and the science behind it. 

What causes static electricity?

If you’ve ever felt a small shock after touching a surface, you’ve experienced static electricity. How does that happen?

Some materials like cloth, plastic, and glass contain a high concentration of electrons.  We call these materials “insulators.” When two insulators rub together, they transfer electrons, a process called “friction,” which creates positive and negative charges. When there is an imbalance between negative and positive charges, static electricity builds up in the surface of these objects. For example, when you walk across a carpet, the soles of your shoes rub against the carpet, and extra electrons with a negative charge transfer from the carpet into your shoes.

“Conductors” are materials where electrons are positively charged and far less concentrated, such as metals. Going back to the example above, when you grab a metal door knob after walking across the carpet, all those extra negatively-charged electrons jump into the door knob and you’ll feel a tiny shock as they travel through your hand. 

How is static electricity used?

While static electricity may be annoying and even scary at times, it has many useful purposes. For example, factory smokestacks have charged plates that use static electricity to channel charged smoke particles into trays, which minimizes the pollution they create. Static electricity is also used in nanotechnology to manipulate atoms for useful purposes in certain computer applications.

Learn how to celebrate Static Electricity Day.

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