How does static electricity work in a balloon?
is a branch of physics known as Electrostatics. To understand this better, a little background information into the structure of matter is required.
Matter is made up of atoms and atoms consist of electrons, protons, and neutrons.
Electrons carry a negative charge, protons carry a positive charge, and neutrons have no charge. We will consider only electrons and protons for this topic.
Looking at the diagram, notice the electrons surround of the atom. This means that the electrons are in contact with other atoms and it allows for the electrons travel to other places. The protons, located in the center, do not travel.
Next, there is a natural force that exists between electrons and protons. The description of this force is known as . This video explains Coulomb’s Law.
Because of these forces, when a balloon is rubbed in your hair, the balloon receives electrons from the hair. These electrons “cover” the balloon which gives the balloon a negative electrostatic charge. (Your hair now has an equal positive electrostatic charge causing your hair to stand up!) Notice that the charge surrounds the balloon and does not travel through it.
These extra electrons on the balloon now create a force surrounding the balloon. When the balloon is brought near a wall, the electrons on the balloon push the electrons in the wall away, leaving a force of attraction between the wall and the balloon. The result is the balloon sticking to the wall!!
Click this link for a simulation. This simulation is a great way to “see” this in action.http://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/balloons