"STATIC ELECTRICITY" IS CAUSED BY FRICTION?
"Static" electricity appears whenever two dissimilar insulating materials
are placed into intimate contact and then separated again. All that's required
is the touching. Chemical bonds are formed when the surfaces touch, and
if the atoms in one surface tend to hold electrons more tightly, that
surface will tend to steal charged particles from the other surface
immediately as they touch. This causes the surfaces to become oppositely
they acquire imbalances of opposite polarity. One surface now has more
electrons than protons, while the other has more protons than electrons.
When the surfaces are later separated, the regions of opposite
charge-imbalance also get separated.
For example, when adhesive tape
is placed on an insulating surface and then peeled off, both the tape and
the surface will become electrified. No friction was required.
Another example: when a thin material passes between rollers, sometimes
the material becomes electrified. The rollers become oppositely
electrified. For example, when newspaper passes between rubber rollers in
a printing press, the paper becomes electrified and later on this can
cause problems with cling and sparking. This situation in a large
newspaper press inspired
Robert VandeGraaff to
design his famous generator.
Friction is not required.
if one of the materials is rough or fiberous and does not give a very
large footprint of contact area, then the process of rubbing one material
upon another can greatly increase the total contact area. Friction may
also remove thin layers of oil or oxide, allowing the two differing
materials to actually touch each other. So, the peeling tape does not
require friction in order to generate
charge-imbalance, but the hair does need to be rubbed by the balloon. Yet
the rubbing is not the cause of electrification, electrification can come
about purely from contact. The term "Frictional electricity" is
misleading. I try to instead use the terms "Contact Electricity" or
"Electrification by Contact," or "separation of charge," or "creating
"STATIC ELECTRICITY" IS A BUILDUP OF ELECTRONS?
It is not a buildup of anything, it is an IMBALANCE between quantities of
positive and negative particles which existed beforehand. Matter is
essentially made of electricity, of electrons and protons. The electric
particles were already there; they did not have to build up. The charging
process is an
"un-cancelling," it's an event which occurs between the large quantities
oppositely-charged particles which were already present in matter. Contact
electrification is more like "stretched atoms" than anything else. If we
could take some atoms and pull their electrons far away from their
protons, we would have created an imbalance of charge or "static
It's true that during "frictional electricity" or contact electrification,
it's *usually* only the negative electrons which are moved from one
surface to the other. But this transferring of electrons then results in
two areas of imbalanced charge, not one. As negative particles are pulled
away from the positive particles, the positives and negatives are no
longer near each other and are no longer are able to cancel each other.
Because of this, equal and opposite areas of imbalanced charge are always
created during the un-cancelling. If you take away a neutral object's
electrons, you leave its protons exposed. And if electrons are no longer
near the protons, then the negative electrons are also exposed. For a
visual demonstration of
this, see my Red/Green
Note well that although the negative charges did the moving, this doesn't
positive charges are unimportant! Before the charges were separated,
there were equal quantities of positive and negative charges present
together within the materials. The positives null out the negatives, and
the negatives null out the positives. After the separation of the charges
complete, the positive charges are just as important as the negative. In
one place you'll have more protons than electrons, and this place will
have an overall positive charge. In the other spot you'll have more
electrons than protons, for an overall negative charge in that region.
You've not caused
a "buildup of electrons", you've caused an imbalance, an un-cancelling, a
stretching-apart, a separation of opposites which otherwise would cancel
each other. In fact, one appropriate term for static electrification is
CHARGE SEPARATION. Think for a moment: if you put the positive and
negative imbalances back
together, where does the "buildup of electrons" go? Nowhere, there was no
buildup there in the first place.
Putting the two polarities of charge back together
eliminates the imbalance and forms normal uncharged matter again.
ON THE CONTRARY, EVERYDAY 'STATIC ELECTRICITY' INVOLVES IMMENSE VOLTAGES.
When two insulating surfaces are adhered (or rubbed) together, two
opposite regions of imbalanced charge appear. When these surfaces are
later pulled away from each other, a very strong "electric field" appears
between them, and this e-field can raise hair, attract lint, etc. In
addition, this e-field is an example of pure voltage, or voltage without
current. The strength of this e-field is incredibly large when compared
to the voltage of batteries and of common electronic circuitry. It is
thousands of times stronger, sometimes hundreds of thousands of times
stronger. Everyday "static electricity" involves immense voltages. The
tiniest "static spark" is caused by about 1000 volts. Longer "car door
sparks" and "doorknob sparks" can involve as much as 10,000 volts. For
more info, see:
ACTUALLY, ALL NEUTRAL OBJECTS ARE MADE OUT OF CHARGE
We always talk of matter as if it only had passing relation to electrical
effects. Yet if we look in detail into the nature of matter, we find
physical substances, made of molecules, made of atoms, made of positive
and negative electric charge. Matter is not electrical? No, quite the
opposite: electric charge is the major component of all atoms. Therefore
matter is *made out of cancelled electric charge.* If we cancel out
some opposite charge by placing positive charge together with negative
charge, do we get nothing? No, instead we get material
Positive protons plus negative electrons equals neutral atoms. Physical
objects normally have no charge? Wrong. The physical objects *are* the
ELECTRICITY IS ENERGY? WRONG.
"electricity" is a catch-all word with many meanings. Unfortunately these
meanings are contradictory, and this leads to the unsettling fact that
there is no single substance or energy called "electricity." And the
problem is not as simple as having different kinds of electricity.
Instead, we wrongly use the word "electricity" to name completely
different classes. When we say "quantity of electricity," we could be
talking about quantities of electrons or quantities of electrical energy.
...or quantity of potential, or amount of forces, fields, net charge,
power, or even talking about types of electrical phenomena or fields of
science. All of
these are found under the definition of the word "electricity." This is a
major mistake, it's like saying that miles, pounds, and degrees are
measures of the same single "stuff." And can you have a cup full of
"weather" or a bucket of "geology?" Part of this problem would
if we used the word "electricity" only to designate a field of science or
class of phenomena; in the same way we use the words "physics" or
"optics." In that case Electricity would be a thing like "Biology." We
do use it this way occasionally. But then we immediately
turn around and do the equivalent of teaching our kids that "optics" is a
substance which comes out of light bulbs, or that cars can move
because they are filled with "physics"! That's exactly how we misuse the
word "electricity," and we do it constantly.
ACTUALLY "ELECTRICITY" DOES NOT EXIST!
See: What is Electricity?
Here are a few examples of errors caused by the contradictory meanings.
- WELL, JUST EXACTLY WHICH ONE OF THEM IS REALLY THE "ELECTRICITY?":
electric circuits the *charges* sit in one place and wiggle back and
forth, but the *energy* moves continuously forward. This is analogous to
the way that sound in air moves continuously forward, while the air itself
just wiggles back and forth. By applying contradictory definitions to the
the term "electricity," we teach that electricity (charge) sits in one
spot in the wires and wiggles, but at the same time electricity (energy)
moves forward rapidly. Garbage! How can anyone possibly understand
this?! It's like saying that sound and wind are the same thing! And the
error is directly traceable to the bogus, contradictory "electricity"
...Which one of the above is right? All of them. And none, because the
word "electricity" has more than one contradictory definition, and the
experts cannot agree which one is correct, is the scientific definition.
None are right, since there is no "electricity" which can be the quantity
of charge, amount of energy, and phenomena all at once. And yet all the
contradictory uses of "electricity" are correct in a way, because the word
"electricity" is commonly used to name all these different things, and
dictionaries support this. Volts of electricity. Amperes of
electricity. Kilowatt-hours of electricity. Watts of electricity.
Coulombs of electricity. It's all totally meaningless and confusing when
taken together, yet it's inextrictably entwined in hundreds of textbooks,
dictionaries, and encyclopedias. The solution? Never speak of Static
Electricity, instead discuss charge separation or high voltage effects.
Say "amperes of electric current", not amperes of electricity. Say
"kilowatt-hours of energy", and "coulombs of charge", and "Watts of
power." To greatly imporve the clarity of your explanations, simply don't
mention 'electricity' at all.
- Another: There are two forms of electricity, positive electricity
and negative electricity. NO, the two forms of electricity are static
electricity and current.
NO, there are many forms of electricity: triboelectricity, bioelectricity,
myoelectricity, piezoelectricity. NO, there is only one electricity, the
form of energy called Electromagnetism. NO, electricity is the flowing of
haven't you ever heard of "watts of electricity?"
'Charging' a capacitor fills it with charge? Capacitors store
electric charge? NO!
The word "charge" has more than one contradictory meaning,
so if you're using it, you're probably creating misconceptions. "Charge"
refers to several things: to net-charge, to quantities of charged
particles, and to "charges" of energy.
No, because 'charged' and 'uncharged' capacitors actually contain
the exact same amount of charge.
- For example, even when a metal object is totally neutral, it
contains vast quantities of movable electrons. You can imagine that all
metals are soaked with a sort of "electric fluid" made of negative
particles which are wandering among the "solid" positive copper ions. If
copper is like a wet sponge, then the sponge is the protons in the atom
nuclei, and the water is the movable electrons.
On the other hand, since the positives and negatives cancel, could we say
that wires contain no charge at all? Or should we say the opposite: that
they contain immense quantities of charge because they are constructed
from electrons and protons? Are they "charged" because they're partly
composed of "liquid" electric charges, or are they "uncharged" because
they contain exactly equal quantities of opposite charges ...which all
Which is 'right?' I don't know the answer. Maybe it's better to abandon
the word "charged", and use other, less misleading terms. Don't say
"charged", say "electrified." Speak of "charge imbalance" and "the
cancelled charge within all matter." That removes the contradictions.
Another: if I place an electron and a proton together, do I have twice as
much charge as before, or do I have a neutral hydrogen atom with no charge
at all? What I DO have is confusion. Conflicting use of "charge" makes
descriptions of electric circuits seem complex and abstract, when the
explanations are really just wrong.
- Another: electric currents in wires are a motion of *neutralized*
charge, so if you teach that a wire is uncharged, and also teach that
current is a flow of charge, how can anyone make sense of a situation
where a wire has no charge at all, yet contains an enormous flow of
charge? This situation arises everywhere in electric circuits, and so the
confusion is spread everywhere too.
- Another: when you charge a capacitor or a battery, you move
from one plate to the other inside the device, and the device as a whole
contains exactly the same charge whether it's "charged" or not. When
speaking of "charging" batteries or capacitors, we've suddenly started
to talk about energy rather than charge, and a "charged" battery has quite
a bit more energy
than an uncharged battery. Yet it contains exactly the same net-charge,
and contains the same quantity of + and - particles. Before being
"charged," a capacitor is neutral, and no matter how much "charge" you put
into it, the capacitor remains neutral overall. One plate is positive,
but the other plate is equally negative, so the capacitor's total charge
never changes. In a capacitor, for every electron
you remove from one plate, you inject an electron into the other plate, so
none are gained or lost from the device. Capacitors and batteries are
energy, not with electric charge. This concept is very important for
gaining a solid
understanding simple circuitry, yet we rarely teach it specifically
because the way is blocked by the misleading term "charge." Those rare people
who figure it out become experts. But it's not hard to be an expert when
nearly universal confusion rules a field of study.
'STATIC' IS RARE? NO.
If you believe typical explanations of "static electricity", you will
come to see "static" as a fairly rare phenomena that has little connection
with the rest of the world. Yes, yes, lightning is impressive, and
copiers and laser printers are convenient, but if "static" didn't exist,
the world wouldn't be much different, would it?
IN FACT, 'STATIC ELECTRICITY' IS ACTUALLY AS COMMON AS MATTER
In fact, electrostatics is a bit more important than we commonly
assume. Contrary to popular belief, standard "electric current" circuits
are deeply connected with electrostatics. For one thing, it is the
electrostatic force that drives electric current! "Voltage" is an
electrostatic phenomena, voltage is electrostatic fields. Without
electrostatics, there could be no voltage, hence no current and no
electrical devices. It is
totally wrong to build a false wall between "Static" and "Current", it's
as silly as teaching that "pressure" and "movement" are two separate
types of water. "Static" and "Current" are two fields of study, not two
substances or energies. They are subject areas which were created
entirely by humans, they don't *really* exist separately in the real
"Static electricity" is important in many other places besides lightning,
photocopiers, and doorknob sparks. For example, your muscles are driven
by long-chain molecules which are forced to slide across each other. This
sliding is performed by electrostatic attraction and repulsion between
parts of the molecule, and so your muscles are electrostatic motors! They
are "linear motors", as opposed to the rotary electrostatic "pop bottle"
motor found elsewhere on my website.
Another example: nerves function as tiny capacitors, with charge
pumps to electrify them, and ion gates to discharge them. Imagine a
nerve as being a long tubular "Leyden Jar" having billions of tiny
"VandeGraaff generators" scattered across its surface, and with billions
of "spark gaps" which always close in sequence as the nerve impulse
Another one: when Uranium atoms are hit by neutrons and their nuclei
split, the main source of released energy is the repulsion between
alike-charged positive protons in the fragments of the nucleus. Therefor,
nuclear reactors release the electrostatic energy of uranium
nuclei. A plutonium bomb is actually a "static electric" repulsion
Another: when dissimilar materials touch, charge is separated. When
dissimilar semiconductors touch, we get "contact potential", a microscopic
electrostatic phenomenon which makes numerous devices possible: LEDs,
solar cells, thermocouples, ...and diodes, transistors, computers, radios,
television, internet, etc. Semiconductor electrostatics is essential to
Another: one type of transistor in particular, the FET or "field effect
transistor", is purely an electrostatic device. Electrostatic fields
within it are used to open and close the conductive channel which
regulates current. See "Charge Detector" for some suggested experiments.
Are these sorts of transistors rare? No. Every single transistor in the
memory, CPU, and IO chips of modern PCs are FET transistors. Most of the
transistors in modern TVs and stereos are FETs. Few people realize that
"static electric" devices have taken over the electronics industry, or
that PCs are made from microscopic electrostatic components, or
that all the data in all the computers all over the world is stored
as tiny patterns of electrostatic charges.
"ATP" is the fuel which drives living things, from bacteria to humans.
One part of the 1997 Nobel prize in chemistry was awarded to the
researchers Boyer and Walker who discovered how energy is placed into ATP.
It turns out that ATP is assembled by an enzyme which is run by a tiny
rotating electrostatic motor! The "spring" in each ATP is "cocked" by a
little rotating molecular machine run by electrostatics. The reaction is
reversible, and ATP can drive the motor, changing it into an electrostatic
typical human body contains around 10^16 of these rotary electrostatic
A big one next. The world is molecules. And molecules are atoms, and
atoms are themselves composed of positive and negative charged particles.
Atoms are held together by electrostatic attraction. If matter is made of
little dots, then the "bars" that connect all the dots together are made
electrostatic fields. Also, atoms are connected to each other through
chemical bonding, and chemical bonding is based upon electrostatic
attraction/repulsion forces. Without "Static Electricity" there would be
no chemistry, no living things. Without "Static Electricity", solids and
liquids would be gas, the
molecules of the gas would fall apart into atoms, and the atoms would turn
separate electrons and nuclei. Without electrostatics, the entire
universe would be a boring, featureless cloud of neutral-particle gas.
Some people consider electrostatics to be boring. On the contrary,
electrostatics is the very thing that lets this universe be an interesting
NO, ELECTROSTATICS DOES NOT INVOLVE "ELECTRICITY AT REST."
First let's look at an analogy which might help clear up our thinking.
Within the science of Hydraulics there are sections called Hydrodynamics
and Hydrostatics. Hydrostatics is the study of fluid pressure and forces.
It's not the study of static water, it's the study of water pressure.
When pressurized pipes are swelling, or when a piston is driving water
ahead of it, those are situations involving Hydrostatics. If you draw
maps of the distribution of pressure upon a surface, that's
Does Hydrostatics involve water at rest? No, because fluid forces still
exist even when water is moving. Just because water starts flowing, that
doesn't mean that hydrostatic pressure must vanish. Does Hydrostatics
involve a special kind of water called "Static Water?" No, that's just
silly. "Static water" is a field of science otherwise known as
Hydrostatics. Hydrostatics is not a stuff!
OK, now look at the science called "Electricity." It has sections called
"Electrodynamics" and "Electrostatics." Is Electrostatics the study of
non-moving electricity? First think about Hydrostatics before you try to
answer this question.
As you suspect, Electrostatics is similar to Hydrostatics: it is the study
of electric forces and the Electric Charge which creates those forces. It
is the study of imbalanced charges in matter, and of voltage and electric
fields. Notice that I didn't say anything about "charges at rest."
This is intentional, since electrostatic forces don't go away when the
charges start flowing in a current. And while electric voltage
falls under the heading "Electrostatics," electric voltage is
intimately involved with flowing charges. (Analogy: water pressure
is intimately involved with water flow.)
Is there a kind of electricity called "static electricity?" No. That's
just silly. It's just as silly as believing in a special kind of water
called Static Water. There's a field of science called electrostatics or
"Static Electricity," but there's no such stuff as "Static."
Where did this crazy misconception about "motionless charges" come from?
There are hundreds, perhaps
thousands of books which blatantly state "Electrostatics is the study of
charges at rest." How can they say such things? I have a good idea.
Look at the difference between Hydrodynamics and Hydrostatics.
Hydrostatics ignores the changing parts and concentrates only on
and the distribution of forces. On the other hand Hydrodynamics
ignores the unchanging parts;
it studies changing or "dynamic" events like fluid
flow patterns, turbulence, etc.
If we became slightly confused, we might decide that hydrodynamics was
all about moving water while hydrostatics was only about motionless water.
easy mistake. Yet it's a serious one, since the actual difference between
"statics" and "dynamics" is something made up by human minds, not
something that really exists out in the real world. It has almost nothing
to do with water's movement. For example, if I look at a river and I
ignore the flowing water while only observing the fluid forces, then I've
made that moving river become a "Hydrostatic" system. If Hydrostatics was
motionless water alone, then I couldn't think about common Hydrostatic
topics such as the pressure in a moving
river or the forces applied by curving flows.
Back to electricity again: "statics" and "dynamics" are viewpoints, and
they have almost nothing to do with motionless or flowing charges. I can
look at a flashlight and, if I concentrate on voltage and electrical
forces while ignoring electric current, I can transform it into an
"electrostatic" device with my mind. "Electrostatics" is a way of
thinking; a kind of viewpoint. It's a field of science. If I thought it
was REALLY about "charges at rest", it would mentally damage me as an
engineer. I'd no longer be able to understand common Electrostatic
situations such as the forces driving electrons across a TV tube, or the
voltage fields within the acid of a car battery. I'd end up with little
understanding of Voltage at all. I'd end up thinking that the entire
topic of Electrostatics was about Ben Franklin and about fur rubbed upon
balloons, and I'd wrongly ignore it as useless historical stuff. I'd
never know that electrostatics was actually the study of voltage. I'd end
up crippled in my understanding of electricity, and I'd never quite know
ELECTRIC CIRCUITS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH "STATIC ELECTRICITY?"
Electric currents are caused by voltage, and the voltage in a circuit is
caused by the imbalances of charge which are present on the surface of the
metal wires. "Static electricity" is what makes circuits operate!
Without the "static electricity" supplied by batteries or generators,
modern electrical devices could not exist. This shouldn't be a big
surprise, since voltage and electrostatics are intimately intertwined.
Here's another way to think about it: when you
rub some fur on plastic, you generate many thousands of volts, while
common batteries only generate a few volts. But both of these create
surface charge imbalances. And both create electrostatic attraction and
repulsion forces. It's the electrostatic forces which drives the charges
through the wires in a circuit. Electric currents are pumped by "static
See also: Unified Treatment of Electrostatics and Circuits, Chabay and Sherwood, 1999 (.pdf)
'STATIC ELECTRICITY' IS TOO WEAK AND FEEBLE TO BE USEFUL? WRONG.
Some authors tell us that "static electricity" is much weaker than
batteries and normal electric generators. They say that 'static' is
to raise hair, or it can slightly repel some pieces of aluminum foil.
Wrong! Electrostatic force is not inherently weaker than magnetic force.
But they do have a point.
First of all let's make one thing clear: all motors involve
"static electricity." After all, voltage and surface-charge is the cause
of electric currents, so all electric circuits and all electric motors
are based on "static electricity." So what do they really mean when they
say that static electricity is weak and feeble?
They're actually talking about the attraction of opposite
electric charges, versus the attraction of opposite magnetic
poles. They're talking about the difference between coil motors which
use magnetic fields, versus capacitor motors which use electric fields.
Conventional coil motors are powerful because their electromagnet coils
can strongly push or pull against magnets or other coils. But if we
build a motor using charged
aluminum foil, that motor will be quite feeble.
But wait a minute! That's wrong, since magnetism isn't inherently more
powerful than electric force. Don't forget that electric force is what
holds solid steel together. Magnetism can even be feeble. The first
magnetism motors were invented by Michael Faraday, and they were
incredibly feeble. It took many years before anyone figured out how to
construct powerful magnetic motors. First, they had to ignore the
weak magnetic forces
made by electric currents and liquid mercury, and instead invent the
electromagnet coil. Then the inventors had to stop trying to build
with flywheels turned by crankshafts with magnet pistons. Instead
discovered how to use small rotating coils wrapped by larger coils.
Modern electric motors are extremely powerful, but they're very different
than Faraday's original feeble motor discovery.
Ben Franklin invented the first motor which used electric charges that
attract and repel. His "Franklin wheel" was extremely feeble, just as
feeble as the "Soda-bottle Electrostatic Motor." Scientists and
inventors eventually built much better capacitor motors. They used
interleaved stacks of metal plates rotating in a vacuum chamber. These
motors are as powerful as coil/magnet motors, but they're too expensive.
Also they require very high voltage rather than high current. For these
reasons you can't buy a one-horsepower capacitor motor, while 1HP coil
motors are cheap and common.
So make an honest comparison between 'static electricity' and batteries
and generators, we must compare the force between two charged metal
plates with the force between two current-carrying wires. Both forces
are quite feeble. But there are ways to build powerful motors which are
based upon coils *or* capacitors.
BEN FRANKLIN'S KITE WAS STRUCK BY LIGHTNING? NEVER HAPPENED.
Many people believe that Ben Franklin's kite was hit by a lightning bolt,
and this was how he proved that lightning is electrical. A number of
books and even some encyclopedias say the same thing. They are wrong.
They have fallen victim to an infectious myth, an "urban legend of
science" which is slowly spreading to more and more books. When lightning
strikes a kite, the spreading electric currents in the ground can kill
anyone standing nearby, to say nothing of the person holding the
Franklin wrote about "drawing down the lightning" from a thunderstorm.
What he actually did was to show that a kite would collect a tiny bit of
imbalanced electric charge out of the sky during the early parts of a
thunderstorm, before lightning strikes became a danger. Feeble electric
leakage through the air caused his kite and string to become electrified,
and the hairs on the twine stood outwards. Twine is slightly conductive
on a humid day, and the twine served as Franklin's "antenna wire." The
twine was then used to electrify a metal key, and tiny sparks could then
be drawn from the key. (A metal object is needed because sparks cannot be
directly drawn from the twine. The twine is slightly conductive, but not
conductive enough to allow sparking.) No noise, no big flash, just boring
yet earthshaking science experimenting. The presence of sparks suggested
to Franklin that some stormclouds carry strong electrical charges, and it
IMPLIED that lightning was just a large electrical spark.
The common belief that Franklin easily survived a lightning strike is not
just wrong, it is dangerous: it may convince kids that it's OK to
duplicate the kite experiment as long as they "protect" themselves by
holding a silk ribbon with a key tied in the middle. Make no mistake,
Franklin's experiment was extremely dangerous. He could have been killed
at any moment, and if lightning had actually hit his kite, today he would
be regarded as a colonial politician who was killed by stupidity, not as a
famous scientist who founded a major new research area.
OK, so what IS Static Electricity?!!!
1. Static electricity is a field of science. Some
people call it "Electrostatics." Same thing.
So, if Static Electricity is a kind of science, then it can't be made by
generators. In a similar way, you can dissect a dead frog, but you'll
never find any biology. And rocks don't contain any tiny pieces of
"geology." Remember: hydrostatics is the study of fluid pressure,
Newtonian Statics is the study of physical forces, and Static Electricity
is the study of charge, voltage, and electrical forces. Where can we find
static electricity? In physics books... and in buildings at the
2. Static electricity is a set of events which humans have grouped
Sparks and lightning are "static electricity," even though sparks and
lightning are about the most dynamic things imaginable. Also, "dryer
cling" is static electricity. The cling effect, THAT is the electricity.
After all, "electricity" can mean "a class of phenomenon," and having
your socks stick to the back of your sweater is certainly a phenomenon.
Where does static electricity come from? From human minds: same as with
"weather" and "bureaucracy" and other classes of phenomenon.
3. Static electricity is another word for high voltage.
Whenever we have high voltage, then we also have electrostatic attraction
and repulsion. High voltage can attract lint or tiny bits of paper, and
it can make hair stand up.
With high voltage we also get long sparks, crackling noises, and blue
glows and flashes. High voltage makes ozone; the stuff that gives that
funny chlorine smell. These things are the hallmarks of Static
Electricity, but they are never caused by the "static-ness" of
electric charges. Instead they
are caused by intense e-fields. Intense e-fields are another way of
saying "high votlage." If you can scuff your shoes on the carpet and then
zap people with your finger, then you've been charging your body to
several thousand volts.
4.Static Electricity means an imbalance of electric charge
Electrically neutral matter contains closely-spaced electrons and protons.
The "positives" and the "negatives" are very close together, so their
effects cancel out. That's
why electrical phenomena don't seem obvious in
the everyday world. But if we accidentally remove a bunch of electrons
from their atoms, then put these electrons in a distant spot, we'll create
a region of positive net charge. We'll also create an equal region of
negative net charge. These imbalances of charge will surround themselves
with intense e-fields.