Thanks to the word electricity, a lot of people believe static electricity can cause us physical harm. So, is static electricity dangerous? It’s not, if we take the necessary precautions.
Static electricity can accumulate anywhere and anytime, but it can ignite a fire or cause explosions only after a certain amount of charge build-up.
Hence, it is incredibly important to forecast any charge build-up to prevent such a mishap.
What is Static Electricity?
The fundamental property of any conductive matter is to hold a charge. Static electricity is the amalgamation of those charges that can flow from one object to another.
It is called “static” electricity because it is the phenomenon created when an object retains a particular amount of charge to be freed later. The charges stay stationary until it gets the correct motivation to pounce on you!
When we rub a balloon on our sweaters, and it pulls all our hair towards the balloon, that is not magic, and neither is it rocket science! It is just the charges built up on the balloon that pulls our hair up, and this is exactly what static electricity does!
What Is The Science Behind Static Electricity?
We know that every object has a charge. When two objects are rubbed with one another, the negative charges (also called electrons) from one object jump and transfer to the other object.
The previously neutrally charged objects now have an imbalance of charges! This creates a positively charged and a negatively charged object.
Intuitively, charged objects can attract or repel other charged objects! Hence, there is a force of attraction between two objects, which creates static electricity!
Hence, when we rub our woolen gloves on the metal doorknob, we will feel a spark of electricity running through our palms due to the static electricity generated between our hands and the doorknob.
Can Static Electricity Hurt You?
The good news is static electricity can’t significantly harm you . This is because our body is not a very good conductor for those mischievous negative charges to flow through us completely. Our body is its own resistor that blocks a lot of the electron flow.
However, the negative charges accumulated on the surface of an object are always looking for ways to jump out.
At times aircrafts and giant vehicles like lorries and trucks can gather a large number of electrons on their metal bodies when their acceleration causes massive friction with the air molecules.
When the aircrafts or vehicles then come in touch with the ground, all those electrons flow to the earth, which is the biggest collection of electrons.
This swift flow of electrons back to the earth at times causes massive explosions. All the electrons want to move back to the earth all at once, causing a series of immediate sparks leading to the explosion.
Aircraft initially touch the ground with their rubber insulated tires, and lorries have a small metal thread always connected to the earth (this is called grounding!) to prevent this problem.
How Much Static Electricity Is Dangerous?
Any energy discharge which is more than 5000 millijoules (mJ) can be a bit dangerous for us. However, as little as 0.2 millijoules of energy discharge can light up a fire if there is any highly flammable object around. But can static electricity start a fire in bed? Most likely not!
How Can I Be Safe And Cautious?
The biggest protection against electrons is insulators! Insulators are special objects that do not allow electrons to pass through. The most common example of insulators are materials made with plastic, wood, and rubber.
The best way to be safe from static electricity build-up is to use insulators for any work that requires friction or to coat objects with insulators if they are prone to electron accumulation.
Moreover, it becomes extremely difficult for electrons to gather around places that are very humid. The water molecules act as great insulators themselves, barring the build-up of any sort of static electricity.
Hence, attaching humidifiers in places that are prone to electron build-up is a great way to be safe.
Grounding is also a very good solution to static electricity build-up. This can be done by connecting a long metal rod to the earth to gradually transfer any and every electron that builds up on the surface.
Can We Use Static Electricity For Useful Things?
It might be surprising to many, but static electricity is extremely useful! The beautifully painted cars that can be seen on the roads have been colored with the help of static electricity! That is why there is not even an inch in the car which goes unpainted.
Static electricity is also useful for many industrial purposes. The flue ash removal systems, and electrostatic precipitators, which filter off many harmful gases and dust particles, use static electricity as a functional technique.
Even printers and photocopiers nowadays use static electricity to print and copy every beautifully written word on paper.
Even if there is a risk of static electricity build-up, with the correct precautions and safety procedures, we should be able to make the best use of this amazing technique!
Static electricity is such a natural phenomenon that it can easily be forgotten if we are not thorough about our knowledge about it. To harness its power and to be safe from its dangers, our knowledge is inevitably the best pathway!