Explanation for Water Bending with Static Electricity

It's interesting to note the differing views regarding the explanation for how a thin stream of water can get bent when a charged object is placed near it. It started with these two videos from Veritasium:

This video then sets out to disprove Veritasium's model of ions being removed from the water stream.

Ionisation of Air to Remove Static Electric Charges

Materials

  1. Wool
  2. PVC pipe or plastic comb
  3. String
  4. Lighter

Procedure

  1. Hang the string from an elevated position. Leave the bottom end free.
  2. Rub the PVC pipe with wool. This deposits negative charges, or electrons, onto the surface of the PVC pipe.
  3. Place the side of the pipe that is rubbed near the string. You should notice the string being attracted  towards the PVC pipe.
  4. Holding the PVC pipe still while attracting the string, light a flame using the lighter and place it in between the string and pipe. You should observe the string falling back to its original position.

Science Explained

When air is ionised with the help of a flame, it serves as a conducting medium through which static electric charges can escape from a surface.

Water Bender

A thin stream of water can be easily bent using a plastic comb or ruler which was previously rubbed with wool. This demonstrates the attractive forces between unlike charges.

Materials

  1. Plastic ruler
  2. Wool
  3. Water from a tap

Procedure

  1. Turn on the faucet for the thinnest stream of water with a consistent flow.
  2. Rub the plastic ruler with the wool.
  3. Place the part of the ruler which was rubbed near the stream of water without touching.

Science Explained

Water molecules are polar in nature, which means that one side (where the oxygen atoms are) is more negative while another side (where the hydrogen atom is) is more positive. When wool is rubbed with plastic, it deposits electrons on the ruler.

The electrons will remain on the plastic as it is a poor conductor of electricity. When placed near the stream of water, the water molecules reorientate themselves such that the positive pole of each molecule is now nearer to the ruler than the negative pole.

The resulting attractive forces are stronger than the repulsive forces as the forces between charges decrease when the distance apart increases.

Static Electricity

image source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/243992

This question is meant for TA 2B and 2C Physics students.

Other than the demonstrations we have tried out during class, could you think of any other way in which static electricity can be observed?

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