Some More Tips
Concerning Electricity at High Voltage
to the Static Generator Page.
Conductors and insulators may not do what you expect.
For example, most people think of wood as an insulator. It is, but
only up to a point. A Leyden jar cannot be made of wood because electricity
will travel through it (it is probably the moisture in wood that conducts
electricity). Another example would be to examine a new roll of electrical
tape. Somewhere on the label it will have a voltage rating, like "good
up to six hundred volts". Well, if you were wiring a house, 600 volts sounds
huge, but in working with static electricity that voltage is pretty low.
Rubbing a balloon on your head can generate thousands of volts. But
wait- there's more. High voltages can leak off of conductors. It depends
on the radius of any given edge of the conductor, and how much voltage
is on it. A small radius will begin leaking charge at a lower voltage than
a large radius (a leftover speck of steel wool can ruin your day "why the
#$@! isn't this thing working?") . That's why conductors on electrostatic
equipment are usually very smooth and round. You don't see wiring on them
because wire is generally too small of diameter to hold a great deal of
voltage. The less leakage there is, the more voltage can build up.
If this isn't bad enough, here's a contradiction for you to grapple with:
Fine points and edges leak charge, but they collect it too. The one place
on electrostatic generators you may find fine points is somewhere that
voltage is being "collected". In any case, there is more to read on the
Internet and in books about this, so if you need to, go for it.
Voltage is like pressure. You would measure
water or air pressure in pounds per square inch. You measure "electrical
pressure" in volts. Just like water or air, electricity behaves differently
at low and high pressures. What you are dealing with doesn't change, its
Voltage is only one facet of electricity. Go
back to thinking of water again: if you have used a squirt gun you have
seen a little water shoot a long way. It's because of the pressure you
can create with your finger. The volume of water you shoot is very small,
but the pressure is high. Now imagine a fire hose being used to disperse
a crowd. It is entirely possible that the pressure in the hose is the same
as in the squirt gun, but the pressure AND the volume can knock people
off their feet. Now, back to electricity. It is possible to generate electricity
at very high voltage (pressure), with little or no current (volume, if
you will). You do it every time you slide your feet along the carpet and
make a spark. The higher the voltage, the farther a spark will jump. This
is why when you touch your cat's nose and give it a shock it doesn't die,
even though thousands of volts have just hit it. It's also one reason why
a household electrical socket can kill, even though it "only" has 120 volts
There are others that have written more along these
lines than I have. If you're new to experimenting with static electricity
or high voltage, you owe it to yourself to search out other sources of
information. A good place to start may be the links and books I recommend
on the main page.