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Coulomb's Law

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Homemade Static Electricity

Homemade Static Electricity

Credit: Greg Peverill-Conti
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregpc/385191397/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

One of the earliest forms of atom smashers, a Van De Graaff generators is able to accelerate subatomic particles of extremely high speeds.

Amazing But True

  • When a motor is attached to the system and turned on, the lower roller which is covered with silicon turns the rubber belt that it is attached to. As the system turns, the lower roller builds a negative charge while the belt builds a positive charge. As the electrons on the roller build up, electrons start to get stripped from the air molecules between the lower roller and the brush. The newly positive air molecules get carried on the belt away from the lower roller to the upper roller seen in the image.
  • The upper roller is made of a material that tries to repel the excess charge on the belt. As a result, any electrons that are in the brush that is near the upper roller become attracted to the positive charges on the belt. The surrounding air particles break down and their electrons move towards the belt as well. The excess charge that builds up in the system, then shows up on the outside of the surface of the container.
  • Credit: Z?tonyi S?ndor
    Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Van_De_Graaff_gen_04.jpg
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Thousands of volts can be generated using a Van de Graaff generator [Figure2]


  • Watch the video below to learn how to build a Van de Graaff generator. 


Explore More

Using the information provided above, answer the following questions.

  1. Why must the belt and rollers be made of different material?
  2. Why does your hair stand up when you place your hand on a Van De Graaf generator?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Greg Peverill-Conti; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregpc/385191397/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Z?tonyi S?ndor; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Van_De_Graaff_gen_04.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0


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