All I have to do is run the plastic comb through my hair and hover it over small pieces of paper, right?

The comb should then be charged and attract the pieces of paper... but that doesn't seem to work. I've used the tiniest bits of paper too.

What's happening?

  • $\begingroup$ Humidity may be too high (a lot of my static electricity demos either fail or barely work in the fall which is moist 'round here) or your hair is simply defective. $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Feb 22 '15 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ It's Summer right now. And I do hope my hair isn't defective, lol. $\endgroup$ – user3139573 Feb 22 '15 at 3:36
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    $\begingroup$ It's possible that your comb was designed to be non-static: either the material is compatible with hair (so friction doesn't generate charge separation) or the comb, while appearing "plastic", may be a reasonably conductor so charge bleeds off. Both are sensible ways to make the comb better at its primary job - to comb hair without making you look like the guy from "Back to the Future". $\endgroup$ – Floris Feb 22 '15 at 4:50
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    $\begingroup$ We can't diagnose the problem with the information given, this is a guessing game. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Aug 24 '15 at 12:53

As already mentioned atmospheric humidity can kill experiments on electrostatics. Plus this "defective" hair means, I guess, if the hair isn't clean, ie a bit greasy. In particular long, fine, dry and clean hair will respond electrostatically wonderfully under (almost) any lab conditions. Short, thick, curly hair may respond when clean but not nearly so spectacularly. What's happening is that the comb charges up the hair as it is pulled through the hair. Then, because the individual hairs are now all charged with same sign of charge, they repel each other and create the well-known and sometimes spectacular sun-burst effect. The effect is negated if the hair is greasy since the individual strands will then repel less readily as they adhere to each other.


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