# eli5 how static electricity works and how it’s different from the stuff in our wall sockets/ lightning?

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eli5 how static electricity works and how it’s different from the stuff in our wall sockets/ lightning?

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Static electricity is caused by an imbalance of electrons, which are tiny particles that carry a negative charge. Sometimes, when two materials rub together, one material will transfer some of its electrons to the other material. This can cause an imbalance of electrons, which is called static electricity.

An example of static electricity is when you walk across a carpet and then touch a metal doorknob. As you walk across the carpet, the friction between your shoes and the carpet can cause an excess of electrons to build up on your body. When you touch the metal doorknob, the excess electrons flow from your body to the doorknob, creating an electric current. This flow of electrons can cause a spark or a shock.

Normal electricity, like the kind that comes out of the outlets in your wall, is different from static electricity because it is produced by moving electrons in a conductor, like a wire. The electricity in your wall sockets is produced at a power plant and sent through wires to your home.

Electricity is the flow of electrons from low voltage to high voltage.

Voltage is a number that represents (sort of) how crammed electrons in a specific place are. Higher voltage means fewer electrons.

In your wall outlets, you’re looking at 120-240 volts. Enough to kill you with ease, but in the grand scheme of things this is nothing. *However*, wall outlets will happily supply as many electrons as you allow them to. You can have a huge amount of electrons flowing, while the outlet is still only 120 volts.

Static electricity is what happens when a few electrons get stuck somewhere. This usually involves very high voltages, but not enough electrons to kill you. The result is sudden, painful shocks as the electricity flows and balances out the voltages.

Static electricity is generates in many way, but the fundamental is sepration of charge. Like in a thundercloud for instance you have negative charge at the bottom, positive charge at the top, this seperation is called “potential”. When the charge is high enough, it starts to exert an influence on the ground and small areas of positive charge form between the cloud and the ground, when one of these is large enough (google positive streamers) it completes the circuit and you get a catastrophic return stroke, or discharge, and what you see is lightning.

Static electricity you generate by say, rubbing a baloon on your head is just a smaller version. Static generated this way has very little current so it doesn’t kill you. The stuff coming out your wall AC socket as a lot of current, so there is much more “power” behind it.