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Chemistry Experiments You Can Do at Home

Introduction

How can I observe the effects of electrostatic forces using household objects?

  • Electric charge
  • Electrostatic forces
  • Nylon hair comb (or a latex balloon)
  • A water faucet
  1. Comb your hair with a nylon comb. If you don’t have a comb, you can also rub your head with an inflated latex balloon instead. As you rub the comb or balloon to your head, it builds up an electric charge on the object due to the movement of electrons between the object and your head.
  2. Go to the faucet and turn it on so that a narrow stream of water flows out. Try to make the stream as thin as possible, while still maintaining a steady, smooth flow of water.
  3. With the water running, move the comb or balloon close to the stream of water, but be careful not to actually let the comb or balloon touch the water. As it gets close, the stream of water should be deflected toward the comb or balloon. This is because the charge in the object (comb or balloon) induces an opposite charge in the nearby water, and the object and water then experience an attractive electrostatic interaction (opposites attract).
  4. You can experiment with how the amount of deflection varies with the size of the stream of water from the faucet. You can also compare the ability of various objects (different combs, balloons, or different objects altogether), or vary the amount of time you rub the object in your hair.


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