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 Static Electricity Giving Rise to Magnetism
Name: Jake
Status: student
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A


Question:
I was wondering if "static electricity" produces magnetism? I personally do not think it does because only a moving electric current can cause a magnetic effect.



Replies:
You are correct.

Richard Barrans Jr., Ph.D., M.Ed.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Wyoming


Jake- That is exactly right, while the static charge and high electric fields are not moving, they make no magnetic field.

Of course, when the static charge discharges in a spark, the magnetic field circling around the spark at that moment can be fairly intense. I think I have heard that a spark from a human-body charged to 10kv has a peak current between 10 and 100 picoamps, and it all passes down a spark channel well under 1mm wide.

And if a static-charged ping-pong ball is swung in circles (dangling on an insulating string), it does make some very weak magnetic field, because then it is moving.

Jim Swenson


You are correct, only a moving electric current creates a magnetic field.

Some people call the spark they get on a dry day "static electricity" That spark is the flow of current between two voltage potential differences (like your finger and a door knob) So that current will generate a magnetic field.

A static electric field itself will not generate a magnetic field until a current flows to neutralizes the charges at the ends of the electric field.

Keep curious Jake.

Sincere regards,

Mike Stewart



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 (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

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

Argonne National Laboratory