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I thought that when clothing becomes "static" (used as a colloquial adjective for that state when clothing fresh out of the drier sticks to everything) it's because of a build up of electrons. That's why you can see little flashes of light if you turn off the lights and rub the shirt onto more cloth, etc. I can explain the lights to myself, because electrons jumping orbital levels, or leaving them, can release photons. But why the noise? Sound is a disturbance of atoms, but can electrons, just electrons, jumping across small spaces really cause such a disturbance to be detectable by my ears? They seem too small.

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What happens with static electricity on a shirt is, if it comes into close proximity to another surface, the difference in electrical potential can become greater than the breakdown voltage of air.

Then, current flows through a small electric arc, which is a plasma of air molecules and electrons. Very locally, this has a much higher temperature than the ambient air for a short time , and that higher temperature causes a short pulse of expansion of air around the electric arc. That expanding air , which also cools as it expands, is the source of the characteristic sparking noise.

So, as your intuition suggested the sound isn't coming from individual electrons themselves. It comes from the thermal, and subsequent acoustic, effects of many electrons flowing in the electric arc.

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