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I. Definition:

The word electrostatics comes from the Greek word “elektron" which means amber.
The Greeks found that when an amber rock was rubbed, it was capable of picking up
small particles or fibers. The word static, of course, means at rest.

II. Charges:

A positive charge means that the object has lost electrons and is no longer
electrically neutral. Each electron lost gives the particle a charge of +1.6 x 10-19
coulombs. Positive, or vitreous, charges are classically created by rubbing a glass rod
with silk. The rod becomes positive (loses electrons); the silk become negative (gains
electrons). Since electric charge is conserved, the system (glass rod and silk)
maintains a net charge of 0.

A negative charge means that the object has gained electrons. Each electron gained
gives the particle a charge of -1.6 x 10-19 coulombs. Negative, or resinous, charges are
classically created by rubbing a rubber rod with fur. The rod becomes negatively
charged; the fur positively charged. By definition, negatively charged objects have
more mass than an identical neutral object since each extra electron has a mass of
9.11 x 10-31 kg.

In mechanics our basic property of matter was MASS.

In electricity, our basic property is CHARGE.

Who named the two kinds of charge? ___ ___________ (Famous American Scientist)

He thought that the positive charges were moving (the structure of the atom wasn’t
really know yet), and designated the direction of the current to be with the flowing
positive charges. Today, we know that current is flowing negative charges (e-). BUT, by
convention, we still call the positive direction of current as with the flow of positive

charges, so in reality, what the direction we designate as current is actually the
opposite of how the charges are flowing. More on this in the next unit – Electricity.

III. Models: Electroscope

Electrification by friction occurs when two surfaces are rubbed together. Examples of this
were discussed above when a positive charge was created by rubbing glass with silk and a
negative charge was created by rubbing rubber with fur. The following list details a larger
portion of the triboelectric sequence. When any two substances shown in this list are rubbed
together, the top one will become positively charged while the lower one will become negatively
charged. The further apart the two substances are in the list, the greater the electrification.

+ Fur (rabbit)
Fur (cat)
Human skin,
Copper, Brass
India rubber

Charging by conduction means that the charging rod actually touches the electroscope’s knob.
Since there is contact, electrons from the knob would flow onto a positive rod or off of a
negative rod. Charging by conduction leaves the electroscope with a residual charge
IDENTICAL to that of the charging rod.

Charging by induction means that the charging rod is brought close to the electroscope’s knob
but NEVER touches it. If the electroscope is not grounded, it will remain neutral but be
temporarily polarized while the charging rod is in the immediate vicinity. That is, a positive rod
will induce the electrons in the scope to migrate to the knob. This redistribution of charge will
result in the leaves of the scope being positively charged.

IV. The atom

All matter is made of atoms. These atoms are composed of negatively

charges electrons (e-) that revolve around a positively charged nucleus (p +
and no).

Why don’t protons pull electrons into the nucleus?

Why don’t protons repel each other in the nucleus?

Electrons and protons have equal but opposite charges. Normal atoms have
exactly enough electrons to balance the protons in the nucleus, leaving the
atom with a net charge that is neutral.

Under certain circumstances electrons may be removed from an atom. When

this happens the atom becomes positively charged. A positively charged ION
is the result. A charged atom is called an ion.

V. Materials

1. Conductors – electric charges move easily through this material, most

commonly a metal.
a. Reason – Metal have valence electrons (e- that are less tightly
bound to the atom). Therefore they are more likely to be
“stolen” by other atoms.

2. Insulators – electric charges are not easily transferred or moved.
a. Reason – Insulators don’t have these free electrons (e - that are
less tightly bound to the atom). Therefore they are not likely to
be “stolen” by other atoms.

VI. How are charges accumulated on an object? (Use the three


1. Friction – As two objects are rubbed against each other, e - ’s are

scraped off one object and deposited on the other.

2. Contact - Electrons can flow from one material to another when they
are in contact (touching). The object you touch obtains the SAME
CHARGE as the object with which it was in contact.

3. Induction –A neutral object can become charged just by holding it
close to a charged object.

Suppose the positive rod is brought near to an insulator (as shown in the
diagram above), for example, a piece of paper or a section of a wall. Since
electrons are not free to move within an insulator, another process takes
place which still results in the paper or wall becoming polarized. The
particles in the insulator realign themselves - presenting an oppositely
charged layer towards the charged rod. This process is illustrated below.

positively charged rod

top surface "-"

polarized molecules
within the insulator

bottom surface "+"