Is it possible to store static electricity in any type of battery and can they be used in electric appliances (lightbulbs mainly)?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Of course, it's just not very useful because there is very little energy in the kind of static electricity that you can encounter. Even lightning only equates to a couple of gallons of gasoline, or so. It's not even worth thinking about capturing either. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Oct 7 '14 at 6:58

Yes indeed. Assuming that by storing static electricity you mean storing an electric charge directly then there is currently a lot of interest in devices called supercapacitors that do exactly this. In particular they are being investigated for use in electric vehicles.

Storing a high charge density in a capacitor is hard because it produces a very strong electric field. Then you need to worry about dielectric breakdown, leakage, and so on. Supercapacitors use a relatively low charge density but have an enormous surface area, and the result is they can store a great deal of charge in a small volume.

  • $\begingroup$ Is it right to say a supercapacitor stores charge? Isn't what it stores energy? Accomplished by a rearrangement of charge. When you "charge" a supercapacitor, isn't the charge flowing in one side/lead exactly counteracted by the charge flowing out the other? $\endgroup$ – RedGrittyBrick Oct 16 '14 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ A supercapacitor, like all capacitors, produces a charge separation. The point is that it doesn't transform the energy to another form like, for example, charging a battery where the energy is stored as chemical energy. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Oct 17 '14 at 5:15

Rubbing a balloon generates a static electric charge. Some electrons are separated of their nuclei. Electrons have a repulsive force on each other. They are located on the spherical shape of the balloon. Uniformly distributed because of their repulsion.

Touching the ballon, these electrons flow - a small electic shock. Moving electrons are called electric current. If current is too low, we build a bigger balloon. So it should be possible to build a battery?

No, because the static electricity does not produce a constant electric current. The balloon is discharged, once touched. Instead of thinking of a battery, I like to think of it as a capacitor. LED lights of a bike sometimes are buffer with one of these. Unlike a battery based on chemical reaction, static electricity in this example has to be recharged. Rubbing the balloon is not practicable.

Have a look at the Van-de-Graaff generator generator. This device constantly generates static electricity. Educating and fun if you touch it.

  • $\begingroup$ The balloon acts very much like a capacitor. $\endgroup$ – LDC3 Oct 7 '14 at 5:12

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.