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To understand electricity, you have to first understand the atom, the basic building block of all matter. Matter is all of the “stuff” in the universe. Matter is made up of atoms. Atoms have a nucleus, an inner core that is made up of neutrons which have no charge, and protons which have a positive charge. Atoms also have orbitals, particles that are located around the nucleus. These are called electrons and these have a negative charge.
If you had some salt and pepper and you mixed the two together, how long would it take you? Not long if you know how to do it.
- Measuring Spoon
Blow up the balloon and tie it closed. Pour 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper onto the plate and stir it around. Rub the balloon back and forth quickly on the top of your head. Now hold the balloon close to the plate. What happens to the pepper flakes? What happens to the salt flakes?
Here are some websites that will help you understand how static electricity works:
- Energy Kids: The Science of Electricity
- Everyday Mysteries: How Does Static Electricity Work?
- Science Kids: Static Electricity Experiment
- Exploratorium: Remote Control (Static) Racers
- Live Science: The Shocking Truth Behind Static Electricity
- Scholastic Study Jam: Electricity
- ZOOM: Snap, Crackle, Jump
When you rub the balloon on your hair the friction caused by the hair and the balloon rubbing against each other causes the electrons from your hair to transfer to the balloon. This gives the balloon a negative charge. When you held the balloon over the dish of pepper, the pepper stuck to the balloon because the pepper has protons and a positive charge. Just like with magnets…opposites attract.
Science Experiments That Surprise and Delight Salt and Pepper Separator (page 10-11)
Words to Know:
Electricity – Energy that comes from charged particles like electrons or or protons.
Static Electricity – An electric charge that is caused by friction. It typically causes a spark or a crackling sound. It can also make light things move…like hair or dust or a feather.
Electron – The part of the atom that has a negative charge. Electrons are orbital, meaning they are not located in the atom’s nucleus.
Proton (positive) – The part of the atom that has a positive charge. It is located in the atom’s nucleus.
Neutron – The part of an atom that has no electric charge. It is located in the atom’s nucleus. (Except hydrogen…that one kind of atom does not have any neutrons.)
Nucleus – The positively charged The central core of an atom. It is positively charged because that is where the proton’s are.