I'm trying to understand the flow of electric charge. I have read about the triboelectric series, but I do not know where the rubber soles of shoes and carpet reside to know whether the shoes acquire a positive or negative charge. I am guessing that since rubber is harder, perhaps it looses electrons to the carpet like glass looses electrons to silk. I think this will effect the rest of my questions, so I have to start somewhere.

If this is true, then when I scuff my shoes, the area of carpet that I scuffed on will have an abundance of electrons, and acquire a negative charge. First, what will happen to this area of carpet? Will the electrons spread out more evenly across the entire carpet? Will they stay in that location? How will the charge dissipate? I imagine that, perhaps, if the air becomes more humid, that the electrons will flow through the moisture in the air and more evenly distribute, to the point of almost negligible charge imbalance.

Secondly, how does the charge move around on me? I thought the rubber soles are insulators, and resist the movement of electrons. Is it easier for electrons to move on the surface of the rubber? Will the electrons on the surface of my shoes and on me all shift around? How much movement are we talking about, on the scale of atoms and molecules?

Finally, if I walk down the hall, still carrying the charge and then touch a metal object, I get a shock. Why did that happen? Presumably, that metal object was neutral, so why would it want to gain a charge imbalance (perhaps a positive one to offset my positive charge)?


It looks like I can answer at least one question. The charge imbalance in the carpet will dissipate into the air via ionized moisture, as described in this question: How does an object regains its neutrality after being charged by rubbing?

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