Monday, January 10, 2005

Why do we get static shocks?

I get a steady trickle of emails from all over the world from people suffering from static shocks. For some it can seemingly become a real problem. For example, getting a shock every time you touch someone can be a problem for personal relationships! I used to get so many of these emails that I wrote my on-line article "Static shocks, and how to avoid them ". This seems to help many people and attracts many visitors to our web site.

There are many possible factors and so it is not possible to say for sure what causes shocks in any particular situation without doing a first-hand analysis. However two factors are very commonly important - shoes and floor materials. Over the last 50 years or so big changes have happened in these materials - nowadays floor materials and the soles of shoes are often made from insulating materials - often plastics.

The strange thing is that not all shoes and floors give the same charge build-up problems even if they are equally highly insulating. Why should this be? The answer lies in the charge generation characteristics of the particular combination of materials. Some materials generate much more charge when rubbed together than others do. The charge build-up is the balance of charge generation rate and charge dissipation rate - if the charge is generated much more quickly than it can escape, static charge build-up occurs. If it is generated less quickly than it can escape, no build-up of static electricity is found.
A dissipative materials is one which allows the charge to escape slowly, within a few seconds. If manufacturers of shoes and flooring always made their products out of dissipative, rather than insulating materials, we would suffer far less static shocks than we do now.

11 comments:

Steve Fowler said...

Many people believe they get more shocks than others due to something mysterious in their body. Most times this can be shown to be just their lifestyle, choice of clothing, choice of shoes, sometimes the dryness or moistness of their skin and yes, their surface area. Something more mysterious is that some of these same people can not wear a watch for very long without it stopping or malfunctioning. That is a topic for another blog.

Anonymous said...

I am one of those people who have a drawer of watches or have thrown out a drawer of watches; horologists have told me the problem is the electricity in my body. I had a doctor once tell me in middle school that I was producing too much electricity and I couldn't do anything moving my arms too much, like playing the violin. Computers have reacted to me for years when I get stressed. Computer techs for the companies I have worked for have told me that I am overloading the computer with my electrical impulses. They weren't joking. I know a lot of people who have the same issues, and we tend to be empaths.

Anonymous said...

hey theres all this talk about how to prevent static shocks... now i was wondering how i could make my self more static whenever i want??
is this possible?? so that i would be able to discharge a shock through people or charge items??
please post back

Anonymous said...

can't stand this static, not being able to even open a door with a brass handle, and every door in my house has one, have to use my elbows can be difficult. Jennie

Anonymous said...

now im having problems , every time i touch my children to dress them or pick them up i get a shock through my fingers every time, can someone tell me how this can be stopped or how to prevent it. as its so stressful.

Anonymous said...

I get 'shocks' at the end of the fall and starting of winter, right through the winter, from metal surfaces, taps, water, and esp. painful ones accompanied by the zzzz sound when I touch elevator buttons - why does it happen to me and not to others, and is there a solution? I have also given shocks to other people when I touch them, most recently the steward on the plane who joked about me having a 'magnetic' personality! Is there a solution...? Help!

Anonymous said...

I get shocked all the time - barefoot, with sandals, sneakers, flip flops - no matter what I am wearing. I cannot even shop at Costco - if I push the cart I will constantly get shocked. One time I reached for a magazine, and got a shock on one hand from the cart and another on my other hand for touching the magazine rack. I get shocked from water (washing my hands), touching people, metal - most anything. And, yes, getting in and out of my car. I do not understand why I get so many static shocks, and my friends and family do not!

Anonymous said...

I get shocked all day long, never ending. I shock other people, I shock my self with everything. I tried pullind my hair up and no longer have rug.. still happens. I am so tired of it, it goes everywhere with me

Anonymous said...

I get shocked from touching any and everything from a pin which is metallic to a blanket which is cotton. The latest of these incidences was coming home from work to a cold house, i touched the heater to fell if there was any heat coming from it , my finger sparked. i am really scared now. I really need help.

Anonymous said...

Same here...I get shocked walking through the house if I get close to the walls...i live in the Caribbean and most buildings are made of concrete including my home...I also shock my family when touching them, but that mostly occurs when outside is overcast or when we travel to the U.S.A...most recently I noticed that I've been attracting lightening which happened as recently as thirty minutes ago. Its becoming scary.

Archie said...

like many of ppl here, I too get those 'static shocks'. first i thought dis cud b bcoz i spend lot of time at work in air conditioned environ OR sumthing strange in my body. To open a door or give a hand shake I use a small towel! rub my hands on it first, then give a hand shake :( Also using moisturizer on ur hands helps..
'Shocks' really 'sucks'.