Mobile Electrons and Static Cling

 This simple interactive simulation provides a visual explanation for the phenomenon of static cling. It also helps the student visualize electrical polarization of a neutral surface. In the simulation, the student rubs a balloon against a sweater to give the balloon a net negative charge. In the process, electrons are removed from the sweater, giving the sweater a net positive charge. When the negative balloon is subsequently brought near the positive sweater or an electrically neutral wall, it is attracted to the other surface. Lesson plans for teachers are accessible on this site as well. Students often misidentify the reason for the development of what we call static electricity. Negatively charged electrons, which are on the outside of atoms, are relatively mobile whereas positive protons are not. This simulation underscores that transferring electrons from one object to another causes the phenomenon of static cling. The net negative charge on the balloon causes it to be attracted to a net positive sweater, and surprisingly to students, a neutral wall. The process of polarization of the neutral wall with the approach of a negative balloon is clearly illustrated in this simulation.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CLE 3231.5.1
Examine the properties of electric forces, electric charges, and electric fields.
GLE 0801.1.3
Understand and use correctly a variety of sentence structures.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 

Learning Goals:

  • Describe and draw models for common static electricity concepts (transfer of charge, induction, attraction, repulsion, and grounding)
  • Make predictions about force at a distance for various configurations of charge

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 

Helpful Hints

What you need:

  • Static Electricity
  • Electric Charges
  • Electric Force