Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Balloon Sticking to Wall
Name: Isaac T.
Status: student
Age: 13
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 9/30/2003

Why can a charged balloon stick to a neutral wall?


When the charged balloon approaches the wall, it repels charges in the wall that are the same as those on the balloon as it simultaneously attracts charges in the wall that are opposite to the balloon charges. Thus, the opposite charge between balloon and wall holds the balloon on the wall.

ProfHoff 733

The wall is not grounded, or at least not well grounded. Dry wall, plaster, and paint are pretty good insulators. It picks up the opposite charge on the balloon.

Vince Calder


A neutral object actually has both positive and negative charges: protons and electrons. When a charged object comes near a neutral surface, the charges of the surface rearrange themselves. The attractive charges that are opposite the balloon's charge are pulled a little toward the balloon. The repulsive charges that are the same as the balloon are pushed a little away. This makes the closest wall charges attractive, giving a little attraction to the balloon. Because the balloon is so light, this is enough to support the balloon.

Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Physics Professor
Illinois Central College

Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory