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Static Tube

Science Snack
Static Tube
Create a clingy container by sliding fake fur back and forth.
Static Tube
Create a clingy container by sliding fake fur back and forth.
Two people, a man and a woman, standing together in a workshop or garage setting.

 

What do you notice?
What do you wonder?
What do you want to try?

 

Materials
a tube, a piece of fur, and some tiny beads

A plastic container. The thinner, the better. We used a 3-inch-wide plexiglass tube. 
Other things to try: a soda bottle, a ziplock bag, some plastic wrap.

Something soft. Or hairy. We used fake fur.
Other things to try: hair, nylon, wool.

Little bits. Lots of them. We used bean bag beads.
Other things to try: sawdust, torn-up paper, salt and pepper.

Also cardboard, tape, scissors, and a hot glue gun.
 

How to Make It
tube with ring around laying on table

1. Close one end of the plastic container.
We cut out a cardboard circle and hot glued it on one end of our plexiglass tube.

2. Add something soft to rub on the plastic.
We taped fake fur to a cardboard ring just big enough to slide up and down the tube.

3. Fill the container with lots of little bits and close it up.
We poured in our beads and hot glued another cardboard circle to the other end.
 

What’s Going On?

Rubbing the fur causes the plastic to become negatively charged. Scientists have known about this triboelectricity (aka static electricity) for thousands of years. But they still haven’t figured out exactly how it works. Does the plastic become negative because it gains negative charges from the fur or because it loses positive charges to the fur?

Thanks to the plastic’s charge, a bead can become a little more negative on one side and a little more positive on the other side. The positive side of the bead sticks to the negatively charged plastic, because opposites attract.

Other combinations of materials can also do this. A balloon rubbed on skin, for example, can pick up pieces of paper. So can a comb run through hair.
 

Inspiring Examples

coming soon...

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