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Static electricity discharge in carsFeatured science projectScience project video


Accidents have been known to occur at gas stations, when on especially dry days, static electricity is discharged as a driver exits or enters his car. This is especially dangerous at gas stations, as the sparks that occur during discharge sometimes lead to explosions. This science fair project was performed to investigate the amount of static electricity discharged between car seats and clothing. The science project experiment involved using a car seat made of fabric and leather. The clothing materials tested were cotton, polyester, nylon and silk.


Leather car seats produce more static electricity compared to fabric seats.

Scientific Terms

Static electricity, electric charges, atom, nucleus, neutron, proton, electron, triboelectric


Static Electricity

The accumulation of static charges on the surface of a body creates static electricity. The electric charges will be discharged when contact is made with another surface.

All matter consists of atoms. The atom has a nucleus at its core, which consists of neutrons and protons while electrons are located outside the nucleus. The tribo-electric series ranks the ability of an atom to retain or release its electron.

An atom that releases its electrons and becomes positively charged will be located on the positive side of the tribo-electric series whereas an atom accepting an electron will be negatively charged and will be located on the negative side of the tribo-electric series.

The process of rubbing 2 surfaces of insulating materials produces static charges. The rubbing action creates friction between the materials which will aid in the generation of static electricity. This will result in electrons being transferred from the atom, releasing electrons to the material containing the atom that receives the electron.

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Complexity level:
Project cost ($):
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 1 hour for science fair project
Material availability:
A car with leather seats and another with fabric seats, are required
Safety concerns:

Ensure that this experiment is conducted ina  well ventilated, safe place, with no flammable substances /gases present.