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What Is The Difference Between Current And Static Electricity?

Electricity is energy resulting from charged particles – either dynamically as a current or statically as an accumulation of charge. So, what is the difference between current and static electricity? Read on…

Static electricity between people

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is current electricity?

This form of electricity has charges that are constantly on the move. The flow of electric current needs a circuit. And these circuits normally contain a mixture of wire and other components that control this flow.

A simple circuit comprises of the:

  • Power source – where the energy comes from
  • Conducting material – a complete circuit often using copper wire
  • Load – the part of the circuit that uses the electricity

This continuous path that allows the electricity to flow in one direction is known as direct current or DC. The movement is a loop from the negative terminal to the positive – and is simply the movement of electrons within a conductor.

Electric charges moving through the wire conducts electricity. This type of electricity is used when you turn on the TV or the lights. Current electricity is provided by batteries to operate gadgets and devices. And generated by batteries and power plants.

What is electrocution?

The dangers of electric current can be fatal as it isn’t the voltage that kills – it is the current that’s forced through the body. Skin resistance prevents a small current from reaching the heart as it can absorb the shock. An increased current causes the heart to experience ventricular fibrillation. Followed by burns and unconsciousness.

The shock becomes so severe that the heart clamps and then goes into cardiac arrest. Internal burns and death may result.

What is static electricity?

Static electricity refers to electricity at rest where charges build up on surfaces of materials, or substances. And they stay static until they are discharged. It is usually uncontrolled and happens sporadically.

Static electricity

What causes static electricity?

Static electricity is generated by friction – rubbing two materials against each other causing the atoms of these substances to lose or gain electrons. This rubbing process results in a loss and gain of electrons with a great potential of generating static electricity.

How does static electricity work?

Static electricity develops due to the movement of negative charges from one object to another. It develops on the surface of the insulator, existing for just a short time. Charges are in the rest position until activated.

What are the dangers of static electricity?

You can actually get an electrostatic shock by touching something earthed if you’re charged and visa versa. An example of this is walking on a nylon carpet that charges you due to the friction. And rubbing a balloon on your head to make your hair stand up. Or you can earth yourself and get an electrostatic shock from touching a metal door handle.

Handling items carrying a large electric charge can cause an electric shock which can burn and be potentially life-threatening.

A flow of charge through the atmosphere can cause huge sparks to form between the clouds and the ground – this static electricity build-up will cause lightening.

Flammable gases and high concentration of oxygen can ignite and cause an explosion. And risks exist with refuelling of aircrafts and tankers if a static charge is allowed to build up along the hose – with a resulting spark igniting the fuel. Earthed hoses stop this from happening.

What is static electricity used for?

Static electricity is used in electrostatic precipitators – a means of pollution control where applying a static charge to dirt particles in the air allows them to be collected on a plate of the opposite electrical charge.

Other uses include photocopiers which use static electricity images to attract ink. Spray painters used for cars give the paint droplets a positive charge and the negative car parts attract the paint.