CROSSROADS Language Studio’s Newsletter February, 2022 STATIC ELECTRICITY
Winter gives us a very much needed respite from incessant humidity present throughout much of the year. Low temperatures in the dead of winter are perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but here in Ehime the season is relatively short and not too cold. February usually receives some snowfall in the mountains and thus provides a short period of opportunity to wear winter jackets and hats. Low humidity in the air results in high visibility at long distances, making a mountain hike a particularly rewarding weekend activity.
Most modern warm clothes are made of synthetic fabrics, which efficiently trap body heat and expel moisture which builds up from exertion. A combination of low humidity, cold air and synthetic fabrics create excellent conditions for conducting electricity. The result is an unpleasant zap, whenever we try to touch things in our surroundings.
When the air is humid, charged electrons freely travel between objects and surfaces, with positive and negative charges balancing each other out all the time. However, in low humidity, the objects begin to build up a charge over a long period of time, and when a positively charged object touches a negatively charged object, a near-instant exchange of electrons occurs, leading to an audible and often visible spark between these objects.
And as much as it can be incredibly annoying to get mildly electrocuted at home, several times a day, this phenomenon can be put to good use in many applications.
One such application is printing with a laser printer, where ink particles are charged up and travel straight onto a paper carrying an opposite charge. Nowadays, cars are painted using static electricity, ensuring that spray paint goes directly onto the car’s body, minimizing waste into the air.
But what about us? Nobody wants to get passively zapped by electrons for no good reason. There are proven methods for reducing static shock.
One good idea is to keep humidity in the house above 50% and, if it’s practical, spraying water mist onto dry surfaces to increase their moisture content.
Our shoes are perfect insulators and effectively prevent electrons discharging to our body, but some soles, such as rubber, are a good conductor, so avoid those.
Additionally, before you reach for your expensive smart-phone, touch a metal surface attached to a wooden surface to get rid of static charge, as phones have delicate parts sensitive to excess electricity.