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Static Electricity

Uses for Static Electricity

Although static electricity can be a nuisance--like getting shock when you tough a doorknob or static cling on your clothes--it has a number of beneficial uses. The forces of attraction caused by static electricty are used in air pollution control, automobile painting, and xerography or copy machines.

Being curious, questions you may have are:

  • How can static electricity stop smoke stack pollution?

  • What happens to freshen the air?

  • How does a Xerox machine work?

Pollution control

By charging dirt particles in the air with a static charge, they can be made to be collected, thus acting as an effective air pollution control. They are often called electrostatic precipitators.


Factories use static electricity to reduce pollution coming from their smokestacks. They give the smoke an electric charge. When it passes by an electrode of the opposite charge, most of the smoke particles cling to the electrode. This keeps the pollution from going out into the atmosphere.

Air fresheners

Some people purchase what are called air ionizers to freshen and purify the air in their homes. They work on a similar principle as the smokestack pollution control. These devices strip electrons from smoke molecules, dust particles, and pollen in the air, just as what happens in creating static electricity.

These charged dust and smoke particles are then attracted to and stick to a plate on the device with the opposite charge. After a while, much of the pollution is drawn from the air.

Since charged particles will also stick to neutral surfaces, some of them can stick to the wall near the ionizer, making it very dirty and difficult to clean.


Your photocopier or Xerox machine uses static electricity to copy print to a page. This is done through the science of xerography.

One version gives ink an electrical charge so that it will stick to the paper in the designated areas. Another version of a photocopier uses charges to stick the ink to a drum, which then transfers it to the paper.

Painting cars

Some automobile manufacturers use static electricity to help them paint the cars they make. The way this works is first they prepare the car's surface and put it in a paint booth, next they give the paint an electrical charge, and then they spray a fine mist of paint into the booth.

The charged paint particles are attracted to the car and stick to the body, just like a charged balloon sticks to a wall. Once the paint dries, it sticks much better to the car and is smoother because it is evenly distributed.

In conclusion

Uses of static electricity include pollution control, Xerox machines, and painting. Can you think of any other uses for static electricity? Think of its properties of attraction, repulsion and causing sparks. Perhaps you can come up with a new use or invention that will help solve some problems that people have.

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