In the Classroom

Science Discipline(s)

Chemistry

Topics

  • Electricity
  • Energy
  • Light
  • Waves
  • Gases
  • Colors

 

Activity Title

It’s Electrifying

Materials

 

Procedure

  • Give each student a light (Figure 1) and ask them to try to figure out how to light it up
  • After a few minutes, rub your feet on the floor (carpet) and let them watch as the light bulb lights up
  • Let the students try this on their own
  • Let the students insulate the wires with the different materials

Figure 1: Static Powered Neon Lights

wneo_300-02

 

 

Questions

  1. How does rubbing your feet on the carpet help light up the light bulb?
  2. Why does your hair go up when a helium balloon touches your scalp or when you brush your hair?
  3. Define insulator.
  4. Define conductor.
  5. What makes a good insulator?

 

Explanation

Static electricity is generated by friction. This can happen when you rub your feet on the floor and then you touch someone and you create a shock. This also happens when you brush your hair or rub a balloon on your head. The light bulbs have small amounts of  an inert gas, neon. An inert gas is a gas that usually do not react with other atoms. The wires on the light bulbs are very good conductors, they allow for the flow of electricity. In contrast, an insulator, blocks the flow of electricity. When you rub your feet on the carpet the static electricity is generated and flows from your body through the conductor (the wires), the electricity created excited the atoms of the neon gas and creates an orange light.

Next Generation Science Standards

Scientific Energy

Waves and Their Applications

Application for Information Transfer