I was experimenting with an oscillator circuit ( which I out dug out from a mosquito zapper) when I saw this "phenomenon".

I had heard that such circuits have enough potential to ionize air and make corona discharges.

Infact, the discharge happens more intensely when there's a metallic object to guide it.


Well, I noted something strange....

There was a little of sitavatak,( a powdered medicine), which I had spilled over the floor, earlier that day. Being a medicine, it had a fair amount of moisture in it, making it preferable for a high voltage current to flow through.

I noticed that the powder particles near the live wire get excited and start to dance and jump around, when it was brought close to them.

This could be due to the ion wind between the wire and the ground( not the subject of discussion here ).

The second thing that caught my attention, was the behaviour of powder particles that were in contact with the live wire.

The moment I switched the wire on, they got attached to the wire. When I lifted the wire, the particles came with it , in a chain.

chain formation

Why does this happen?

I reasoned that:

Since the ac current prefers the easiest path to reach ground , it does some work to hold up the chain as long as it provides a pathway for the current.

To back my inference,

I did the experiment all over again with the powder kept on a plastic disc, ensuring that the powder has no contact with the ground.


And, there was no chain. Only the dancing.


The powder no longer provided a pathway for the current to reach ground,so the current doesn't HAVE to do work to hold together the chain.

So, am I correct in my inference?

Is there actually such a property for the electric current ?

If not, how would you explain this behavior ?

Here are the links to see the experiment for yourself.

CHAIN FORMATION https://youtu.be/DxC2a7tCuwM

ON PLASTIC DISC https://youtu.be/kYoXkUqqDsY

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ No emojis please. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, photographs - or better still a video clip - would be helpful. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ Photos and videos coming rightaway... $\endgroup$
    – AlphaLife
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ I have updated the post. $\endgroup$
    – AlphaLife
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ I have updated the post. $\endgroup$
    – AlphaLife
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


The dancing is potentially caused by the particles becoming polarized and thus attracted to the electrode. Once they reach the electrode, they acquire the same charge as it and so are repelled. This is commonly demonstrated with pith balls...


The sticky strand could potentially be a manifestation of the same effect used in a radio coherer...


This is less well understood, but it is generally believed that the current flowing though the particles causes micro-welds at the tiny points where they physically touch each other. This seems consistent with your video. Do the particles stay attached after you turn off the current? Can you think of other tests that could further confirm or reject this hypothesis?

  • $\begingroup$ I feel greatly rewarded that a person actually put some effort in explaining my work. The links provided does have some connection with the phenomenon. And for your explanation, I will try that and report the results at the earliest. Answer to your question regarding the effect after turning off the circuit, is NO. $\endgroup$
    – AlphaLife
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 3:54
  • $\begingroup$ Most great discoveries have come from someone seeing something they did not understand and asking "Why does it do that?"! Try to think of things you can change that would disprove theories, and keep going until you can make non-obvious predictions that turn out to be true. Report back with your results, I am interested to understand what is happening with your chain as well! $\endgroup$
    – bigjosh
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 4:27
  • $\begingroup$ for your information, the videos are a pictures for me. do you have them in youtube? $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ @anna v Yes, you can find them in the the links given at the end. The "videos" you see are just screenshots. $\endgroup$
    – AlphaLife
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 4:39

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