# Capacitor and Pith Ball experiment

Suppose I first charge a capacitor so that one plate is positively charged and another negatively. Now I remove the charging source and ground only one of the terminals say negative terminal, will there be a net positive charge in the capacitor that can be detected by a pith ball? Can a capacitor be used as static electricity generator?

I believe some of the other answers are wrong.

The charges on opposite plates of a capacitor do attract each other, but not as much as they repel themselves. That's why a capacitor will discharge if it gets a chance to.

So a capacitor that can discharge, will discharge.

If the side that has more elections is connected to a place electrons can go, and the other side is connected to a place that supplies electrons, some of them will move. Yes, there will be a charge at one terminal, whether or not the other terminal is grounded.

How much charge? So you need a capacitor which can do that.

"The accumulation of enough charge to detect with an electroscope requires hundreds or thousands of volts, so electroscopes are used with high voltage sources such as static electricity and electrostatic machines."

So you need a capacitor which can do that, charged that much.

When you connect the negative terminal to ground, why would the negative charge flow anywhere? It has to exist somewhere, and it might as well be close to the positive charge on the other capacitor plate.

You could also consider a very similar scenario in which you connect the negative side to ground before disconnecting the charging source. In this case, when you disconnect the source no charge will flow.

• Suppose I have 2 copper balls . One having +ve Q charge & other having -ve Q charge. They are at a separation x which is very less. I connect the -ve charge ball to an equal ball having charge 0 with a wire. Will the -ve charge of the ball flow to the other ball or will it stay there because of attraction be +be charge on the 1st ball ? Mar 25, 2017 at 16:36
• @shashaank it will stay.The charges are said to be bound in this case Apr 4, 2018 at 3:36
• "why would the negative charge flow anywhere?" OP did not say how they would charge the capacitor. If they charged it from an isolated power supply, then the voltage on either of the capacitor's plates with respect to Earth is undefined: It literally could be any value. If the voltage between the negative plate and Earth is non-zero before the connection is made, then a brief pulse of current will flow when the plate is Earthed. Mar 2, 2022 at 17:17

"will there be a net positive charge in the capacitor that can be detected by a pith ball?"

Grounding 1 side will not effect the charge or voltage on the capacitor.

"Can a capacitor be used as static electricity generator?"

Once the capacitor is charged the voltage on it is: V = Q/C Since the charge is now constant, if you somehow decrease the capacitance (move the plates away from each other) the voltage would definitely increase. Very large voltages can be 'generated' this way.

When you ground a terminal there will be no charge flow, as those negative charges are attracted by the positive charges of the other plate. Or use Gauss's Law, construct a cuboidal gaussian surface with 4 sides perpendicular to plates and 2 sides inside each plate (I chose cuboidal only because it's easy to explain).

There will be no flux through this surface (inside conductor $$\vec E=0$$ and outside it,$$\vec {E}\bot \vec {dA}$$) , so no net charge within it. If some charges are lost from neg plate then will be a net charge inside our surface, which can't happen.