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The danger of static electricity at gas stationsFeatured science projectScience project video

Abstract

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, clothing and hair. Do leather seats or PVC (polyvinylchloride) seats produce more static electricity? Is it our clothes, or our hair that's responsible for generating static charges? For this experiment, the materials tested were cotton, polyester, nylon and hair.

Hypothesis

Compared to PVC seats, leather car seats produce more static electricity than PVC seats. Our second hypothesis is that between cotton, polyester, nylon, and human hair - polyester will produce the greatest static charge.

Scientific Terms

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

Background

Static Electricity

Static electricity is created by the accumulation of electric charges on the surface of a body. The accumulated charges will be discharged when contact is made with another surface.

All matter is made up of atoms. The atom has a nucleus in its core, which contains neutrons and protons. Its electrons are located outside the nucleus. The ability of the atom to capture or release its electrons is determined by its position in the tribo-electric series. When an atom loses an electron, it becomes positively charged and it will fall on the positive side of the tribo-electric series. When the atom captures an electron, it will be negatively charged and will fall on the negative side of the tribo-electric series.

When two types of insulating materials are rubbed together, static electric charges will be produced. The friction created by the rubbing of these two materials will help to produce static electricity. One of the materials will release electrons while the other will receive the electrons.

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Complexity level:
6
Project cost ($):
20
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 1 hour for the science project experiment
Material availability:
A car with PVC seats and another with leather seats, are required
Safety concerns:

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