Static Electricity In Air: 11 Facts Most Beginner’s Dont Know

Static electricity is generated due to frequent contact between the insulating materials in which the valance electron exchange occurs.

The imbalance of electric charges in the material causes static electricity. Generally, the charges are stationary and can migrate to another material in contact. Static electricity depends on various factors. Depending on the behavior, the static electricity in the air will be discussed in this post.

Does air affect static electricity?

The static electricity is generated due to the exchange of valence electrons when there is contact between the two materials. However, the discharge of electric charges conducts through the air; thus, air can affect the static electricity.

The distribution of charges in the air takes place equally, and thus air becomes more conductive and can absorb excess charges. The conductive of air causes mobility of the charges leading the material to hold fewer static charges.

File:Balloons (static electricity).png - Wikimedia Commons, static electricity in air
Charge transfer describing static electricity in air
Image credits: Wikimedia commons

What causes static electricity in air?

Air is an insulator, and it is hard to pass the electron through it. The friction between the two materials often causes static electricity in the air. The moisture in the air causes static electricity in air.

If the air has a large amount of moisture, the electron is set free to migrate more freely. If the air is drier, then the generation of static electricity is more in the air. This is because electric charges built in the air are stuck and hard to move around for conduction. As a result, free electrons collect at one spot causing static electricity in the air.

Is static electricity caused by dry air?

The generation of static electricity in air is mainly due to the dry air. We can observe static electricity around us during the winter rather than summer because of the dry air.

During winter, the moisture in the air is a little less, and it is dry. So that electric charges flow towards a point and settle down at that position. There will be a high risk of discharging electric charges in the dry air.

The electric shock is received more often during the winter due to the dry air. In summer, the air is hot and can withstand more water. So that the electrons are diminished as we move. Static electricity is possible only in dry air.

Can static electricity travel through air?

When a material becomes electrically charged, it will remain the same until or unless any other material comes into closer contact. But in air, the static electricity cannot travel because it is electrically neutral.

In general, static stands for no motion of charges. The air molecule can be changed, but it cannot travel in the air. The charges will do no work in the air. If electric charges can travel, then there should be work done by the charge that is harvested for future use.

This is because there is a lot of potential difference between the point in the air and the ground. So that when the high potential charges strike, the air resistance is neutral and discharged soon, and motion is not possible.

How much static electricity is in the air?

When the static electricity breaks in the air, it carries around 10000 volts per centimeter. This is not an accurate value; measuring the static electricity in air depends on the humidity of the air.

This amount is far enough to heat up the surrounding environment to generate a shock wave. The breakdown of static electricity gives joules of energy which helps calculate the amount of discharge through the capacitor. The human normally detects the potential difference of around 3000 volts.

Effect of static electricity in air

There are some effects of static electricity air which we can observe in our daily life. They are given below.

  • The static electricity can cause a change in the charge distribution over the surface of the body.
  • The interaction of static electricity in the air with the body hair causes their movement.
  • When the static electricity is discharged into the air, there is the possibility of receiving micro electrical burst in body.
File:Static slide.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Static slide: Effect of static electricity in air
Image credits: Wikimedia commons

Discharge of static electricity in air

The discharge of electric charges occurs when there is contact between positive and negatively charged material. As soon as the negative charge approaches the positive charge, the buildup of static electricity causes the sudden discharge of charges in the air. The discharge of static electricity in air results from a sudden flow of electrons.

The discharge of static electricity in air causes a spark or shock Lightning is the best example to illustrate the discharge of static electricity in air. Lightning carries a tremendous amount of electrical charges that discharge into the air. There discharged electrical charges are static charges which cannot travel in air.

Static Electricity | I wish I could see it bigger I took thi… | Flickr, static electricity in air
Lighting discharge static electricity in air
Image credits: Flickr

How to measure static electricity in the air?

Static electricity is the surplus of electrons measured in terms of coulomb. A device called an electrostatic field meter, also known as the static meter, is used to measure the static electricity in air.

Initially, the flow of surface charges on the material must be determined using the formula Q=C×V, where Q is the surface charge, C is the capacitance, and V is the voltage.

Measuring the static electricity in air involves the behavior of the electric field in air. In open-air, the electric field lines are always perpendicular to the material. So measuring the static electricity in air is quite reasonable for doing the accurate measurement.

Does humidity cause static electricity?

Humidity is one of the main reasons for generating static electricity in the air. Relatively low humidity in nature has a high risk of generating a huge amount of static electricity in the air.

The moisture content in the air molecule is a good conductor. Thus, if the humidity is low, i.e., dry air, the imbalance of positive and negative charges in the material increases, causing the deposition of charges in one place, leading to static electricity.

Does humidity reduce static electricity?

High humidity can reduce static electricity because all the moisture in the air is absorbed, making the electric charges move more freely for the conduction.

Humidification is a technique that effectively reduces the outburst of static electricity in the environment. A humidifier can maintain up to 30% to 40% of the moisture in the air and reduces static electricity.

Why does humidity affect static electricity?

The static electricity exists if and only if the material is non-conductive –the material should be an insulator. Since air is considered an insulator and moisture is a good conductor, there must be an effect on static electricity.

High humidity refers to moisture in the air absorbed by the molecule; thus, there will be fewer chances of gaining static electricity as moisture in the air makes the air molecule into an insulator. But in low humidity, the air molecules are dry and can attain more static electricity.

How does humidity affect static electricity?

The humidity of nature largely influences the flow of the electric charges. When highly humid, the charges can easily flow and contribute to the conduction. But when there is low humidity, the electrons freeze together and cause a burst of static electricity.

The humidity of the air largely influences the conductivity of air. Thus, it is said that if the air’s humidity is higher, then air conductivity will be higher, leading to less static electricity. When the humidity is low, the materials become insulators causing no motion of the charges.


Let us conclude this post by stating that static electricity in air is mainly due to moisture content and contact between the two oppositely charged materials in the air between them.

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