Can I create static electricity efficiently?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Bob-a-builder, Jun 11, 2019.

  1. Bob-a-builder Registered Senior Member

    If I wanted to fill a container with static electricity.

    What type of container would be best to hold the charges? Would a plastic Aquarium work?

    What method would be cheap(er) and most efficient for getting such static inside. Would I require a similar lid or will it pretty much remain electric without a solid lid (provided no real air currents)?

    I do not wish an insane amount, but prefer strongly noticeable. If you have knowledge of how I could control the levels either with testing or input, I'd also be keen to understand that.

    I apologize for what must seem like a simple question, but the internet is filled with childrens experiments such as running balloons through your hair, combs and water.. and such.

    I don't wish to buy a Van de Graff Generator or even build one, as there might be simpler and cheaper ways. The Plasma balls seem to give off some light static also.

    I've seen people construct electrostatic generators with just flowing water, but I'd prefer something I could just plug into ac or dc.

    So.. dumb newb question I suppose. Any takers? (I think I posted this in right section. Unsure)

    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
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  3. billvon Valued Senior Member

    A capacitor. They are widely available.
    A HV boost converter. Warning - such potentials can easily injure or kill you.
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  5. Bob-a-builder Registered Senior Member

    Hi. Sorry for the confusion.

    I was not specifically meaning something that would hold a charge. We wish to electrify the air within a confined space which is why I mentioned the aquarium as that was what we wished to fill with such static. The intended study is on insect behavioral changes if any and maybe should have stated so in the original question. I just did not want to sidetrack the answer.

    Thank you for pointing at HV boost converter though. I am not sure what that is but I can now research such terms. It is an odd intention I suppose which might be why i cannot find much information.

    Yes. Non-lethal amounts of static would be much preferred.

    Thank you
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  7. Bob-a-builder Registered Senior Member

    So.. I guess the most scientific way to add static electricity to the air in safe quantities is to purchase a few "Plasma Balls" at a toy store and have it inside the container. That was my conclusion before I joined sciforums this morning.

    I just hoped there was a more scientific method that did not involve using a childs toy.

    Thanks anyways. It does seem like a tougher topic.
  8. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    They used to do it with a glass jar, set to rotate against a wool fabric.
  9. billvon Valued Senior Member

    I think I should point out that there is no difference between static electricity and any other kind. "The thing that gives you a shock when you rub against something" is triboelectric effect; it creates a potential difference, but that potential difference is no different than any other kind of potential difference.

    Some animals can detect electric _field._ None that I know of can detect electrical _potential._ Which did you want to generate?

    To generate electric potential, put the insects in a metal cage and connect one side of a HV supply to the cage, the other to ground. Then isolate the cage, turn on the supply and run the experiment.

    To generate electric field, put the insects in a plastic cage with a metal grate on two sides. Connect each side to one side of an HV generator. Then isolate the cage, turn on the supply and run the experiment.
    Nope. Won't work. That's HF current flow which is very different.
  10. RainbowSingularity Valued Senior Member

    yes thats a little different
  11. Bob-a-builder Registered Senior Member

    To generate electric field, put the insects in a plastic cage with a metal grate on two sides. Connect each side to one side of an HV generator. Then isolate the cage, turn on the supply and run the experiment.

    This seems along the lines of what I saw, but this was many years ago. My kids were interested in science experiments when school was on but could not get an ant farm in time. Now they wish to do a video.

    I kind of gave up here but now it seems like there is an item called an air "ionizer" seems to do what we require. Still unsure and would have to read some more.

    I was hoping for a simple solution like this and thanks for letting me know a "Plasma Ball" will not charge ions in the air. I assumed they did because they can excite noble gases from what I think I've seen. Similar to a van de graff.

    Obviously I have little clue and probably shouldn't be on this forum.

    Thanks all
  12. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Air ionizers give you more ions in the air, not any electric fields. There are often electric fields _inside_ ionizers but they do not create static (or any sort of) electricity. Indeed, often ionizers are used to reduce static electricity near electronics. (Oppositely charged ions are attracted to the surface charges that people call "static electricity" and tend to neutralize them over time.)

    On the other hand, if you get an ozone generator (a sort of air ionizer since ozone is created by a similar process) running at a high enough level, it might make for a decent video since it will injure and eventually kill the ants. But it's also not so good for people to breathe so be careful if you do this.
  13. Bob-a-builder Registered Senior Member

    Yes. I knew about the Ozone thing for a while and I'm under the impression there are two types of things called ionizers, one which is electrostatic and one which removes such static.. unsure why the both go by same name. If correct (unsure).

    So I've seen a few ideas for creating the field on youtube such as the grate idea with HV generator but I was hoping for something a little more plug and play and less chances of explosive lightning discharges from capacitors, etc.

    I didn't think electrifying air would involve a degree in rocket science. sigh.

    Some suggest there is a an electrical version of the van de graff. That is assuming van de graff adds static to the air if dry, etc. I think I'm more confused now than when I first asked but at least I didn't go buy anything unnecessarily so thanks for that.

    I should have done some more learning on the topic before posting original question. I was hoping for a simple solution to just add non current energy to the air. Buying two grates and a high voltage generator might be outside my wheelhouse. Now if I just had to buy a few grates and something with clamps on it similar to a battery charger then maybe i could handle that, but I don't even know what a high voltage generator looks like at present.

    Would standing in an electric field slowly increase an animals electrical potential? Would they give a shock if grounded? Could I use a fan to generate the static like a helicopter does? How would a person cause static in a balloon without touching/rubbing it (if possible)? How much wood could a wood chuck chuck?

    I have more questions than I started and am feeling stupid for coming here. I'm obviously not comfortable with this topic and thought I could just go and buy something for $50.

    Thanks for your patience. I feel dumber than a fifth grader.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
  14. billvon Valued Senior Member

    No; their potential would stay about the same.
    Depends on the potential, field you wanted and the impedance/current capacity of the system.

    At three million volts per meter air breaks down so you don't want that. At a hundred volts per meter or so, with a current limited supply, you'd barely feel a shock if you touched both screens at the same time (assuming screens about half a meter apart.) You could do that with off the shelf lab components.

    Do you know what strength electrical field you want? And is it a field or a potential?

    Also I have been assuming you want a DC field since you said "static." But do you really want DC or is AC ok?

    For DC experiments this would work fine and give you up to about a thousand volts per meter -
  15. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    I'm confident you could make an electrostatic generator for less than $10. It used to be a Victorian parlor trick.
  16. Q-reeus Banned Valued Senior Member

    It's not possible to store electricity inside a container as you obviously envision it. Any initial net charge placed there will inevitably drift to the outside to create a minimum equipotential environment. And then quickly dissipate as opposite charge finds it's way there to neutralize. Even supposing one could uniformly 'paint' charge inside the container, there would be zero electric field within and any insects inside would notice no difference to a completely uncharged container. Don't waste effort on an impossible quest.
  17. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

  18. Bob-a-builder Registered Senior Member

    Thanks again for many good ideas above.

    My interest is increased in this "field" almost as a result of feeling like an idiot here.

    I have clicked on the links provided and the "science kit" type field generation is probably better suited to us.

    So thanks "billvon" and "spidergoat".

    Q-reeus - While other people here have at least offered dumbed down advice, your comment is entirely useless to us.

    So your suggestion is that we should just blindly accept the experiments from others without trying them for ourselves?

    Unsure if that is how science is supposed to work but I will keep it in mind.

    The fellows conducting a similar experiment below might be full of crap. If that is the case I will never know unless I try to replicate something similar.

    These notions come from ideas such as cats seem to vanish more prior to electrical storms, etc.

    So.. If the experimenter below received your advise to
    "Don't waste effort on an impossible quest."
    Then I suppose they could have spent as many hours watching Netflix.

    Watching Netflix instead of verifying claimed facts/bullcrap almost seems contrary to the scientific method. Other members at least explained what was wrong with my thinking.
  19. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    That's a good sign. It's always good to know how much you didn't know.
  20. Q-reeus Banned Valued Senior Member

    Wow. A bit harsh there perhaps? I was trying to save you frustration believe it or not! In giving you a somewhat dumbed down version of why your initial idea is physically unworkable. Using say an ion beam one could initially inject charge inside your bottle arrangement. But free charges don't behave like a gas. The latter minimizes it's energy by spreading out uniformly through the (sealed) container volume. Charge on the other hand minimizes energy by forming an essentially uniform surface density deposit on the container wall(s). The outer surface affords a lower energy than the inner, so inevitably excess charge will finish up there. It's a well known fact of EM theory that there exists no interior E field under such circumstances:
    You will have to read to the end of that quite short article to get it.

    It is possible to produce a steady field throughout a container interior - but NOT the way you imagined it. The most useful arrangement is probably to simply seal the sides of say a parallel plate capacitor using thin plastic sheets. That would allow a reasonable picture of the E field shape and strength. But do you have a clear idea of what you really hope to achieve? For instance how did you imagine the hoped for field of your OP idea would even look like? Insects will physiologically respond to potential gradients i.e. E fields - not a uniform potential of any magnitude you like. Experiments conducted by Brillouin back in the 50's established that electrostatic potential of itself has zero effect on physics. Something a theorist I have been trying in vain to convince.
    Bob-a-builder likes this.
  21. Bob-a-builder Registered Senior Member

    My apologies then.

    I joined sciforums for this question.

    Days later I am still as dumb. I cannot grasp the difference between an electric field derived from two plates or an electrical field given off by objects like a vacuum cleaner or microwave. Science kits are my level apparently. I may figure it out some day.

    I am reading that article now. ty. (Edit: Yep. I'm an idiot. That short article was mostly french to me.)

    I consider this answer resolved however and thanks also for trying to help.
    Q-reeus likes this.
  22. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Something unclear in the concept - we talking "field" or "potential gradient" or "difference in potential" or "potential" here:
  23. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    In view of subsequent threads, it seems fairly safe to conclude that the OP was lying when he said this was about studying insects.

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