Electrostatics is the study of the forces between stationary or static electric charges. It is the branch of physics that investigates what happens when electric charges repel or attract one another. These charges and the interactions between them are best studied through experiments.

All objects (matter) are made up of atoms. Recalling atomic structure, atoms are composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons and electrons have electric charge - protons are positively charged and electrons are negatively charged. It is the interaction between these charges and the force they exert on one another that is studied in electrostatics.

Objects can be neutral (where the number of positive and negative charges is equal) or they can become charged. Objects can be charged in a variety of ways, including by coming into contact with another object, or through friction between two objects. When an object has become charged it has either gained or lost negative charges.

The effects of electrostatics or static electricity are noticeable in many areas of day to day life. Receiving a shock from a metal door handle after walking across a carpeted floor, one's hair standing on end in dry weather, lightning bolts during a thunderstorm, or receiving a shock from a friend are all examples of static electricity.

Looking closer at the example of walking on a carpet, one may have experienced an electric shock when touching a metal door handle after walking on a carpet. The friction generated when walking on the carpet results in a transfer of charge (electrons) - this transfer is known as the triboelectric charge. The negative charge is transferred from the carpet to the person, resulting in the person becoming more negatively charged and the carpet more positively charged. There is now an imbalance of charge. When the person touches the door handle the charge is discharged or released and a shock is felt.

Studying the interactions between forces allows scientists to learn more about electrostatics.

Related Links:

To link to this Electrostatics page, copy the following code to your site: