Properties of Charges at Rest

Electrostatics is the study of charges, or charged bodies, at rest. When positive or negative charge builds up in fixed positions on objects, certain phenomena can be observed that are collectively referred to as static electricity. The charge can be built up by rubbing certain objects together, such as silk and glass or rubber and fur; the friction between the objects causes electrons to be transferred from one to the other—from a glass rod to a silk cloth or from fur to a rubber rod—with the result that the object that has lost the electrons has a positive charge and the object that has gained them has an equal negative charge. An electrically neutral object can be charged by bringing it in contact with a charged object: if the charged object is positive, the neutral object gains a positive charge when some of its electrons are attracted onto the positive object; if the charged object is negative, the neutral object gains a negative charge when some electrons are attracted onto it from the negative object.

A neutral conductor may be charged by induction using the following procedure. A charged object is placed near but not in contact with the conductor. If the object is positively charged, electrons in the conductor are drawn to the side of the conductor near the object. If the object is negatively charged, electrons are drawn to the side of the conductor away from the object. If the conductor is then connected to a reservoir of electrons, such as the ground, electrons will flow onto or off of the conductor with the result that it acquires a charge opposite to that of the charged object brought near it.

See also pole, in electricity and magnetism.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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