St Aiden's Homeschool – Our Other Blog

April 22, 2009

Science for Kids – How to Bend Water with Static Electricity

Filed under: Science — Tags: — Donnette E Davis @ 4:42 pm

How to Bend Water with Static Electricity

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Static electricity does more than shock you when you go to open a door, or attract dust and pet hair to your furniture and clothes. It can actually bend a stream of water. This is a good science demonstration for kids because it shows how an electrically charged object attracts some things with a neutral charge.


  1. Charge an object. What you’re doing here is collecting electrons on the object. Electrons give the object a negative charge.
    • Take a dry (preferably nylon) comb and run it through your hair about 10 times. Your hair must be dry as well.
    • Take a plastic spoon or a balloon and rub it vigorously against nylon, acrylic, or fur.
  2. Turn on your faucet. Only let a very thin stream of water flow. It needs to be a smooth stream, not one that breaks up.
  3. Place the object right next to the stream of water without touching it. If you are doing it correctly, you can see the water moving towards the object. See “Why this works” below for an explanation.
  4. Experiment. Change the variables, one at a time, to see how it affects the result. Can you explain why?[1]
    • Does the temperature of the water affect how much it bends?
    • Does a bigger object make the water bend more?
    • Does the material that the object is made of affect its ability to bend water?
    • How does the strength of the stream flow affect how much it bends?

Why this works
When you charge the comb or other object, it acquires extra electrons and becomes negatively charged. Water has no net electrical charge, but the negatively charged comb induces a complementary charge in the water. The electrons in the water can move somewhat. When the negatively charged comb comes near the water, it repels the electrons, so that the side of the water nearest the comb then has a positive charge. The attraction between this positive charge and the negatively charged comb results in a net force on the water, bending the stream. A similar effect occurs when you stick a charged balloon to a neutral wall or use it to attract neutral bits of paper. [2] [3]



  • This will only work in dry conditions. Try to do this on a day with low humidity, and don’t do it right after someone has taken a shower. When it’s humid, everything gets coated in a thin film of water, which makes the transfer of electrons more difficult. The water molecules in that film (as well as in the air) capture electrons that would otherwise go to the object you’re charging.
  • Static electricity is used in photocopiers. The document is recorded, and then a sheet of paper is “imprinted” with static electricity using that pattern. When toner is sprayed onto the paper, it only sticks to the areas with a negative charge.[4]

Things You’ll Need

  • a plastic comb or balloon
  • A faucet (tap)water faucet [make sure the water is 1/8 inch tick]
  • a sweater.

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations


Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Bend Water with Static Electricity. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.


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