Charge
Electricity and Magnetism

Quiche Lightning

Enrichment Activity for 5-11 11-14


What you need

  • A piece of polystyrene
  • A clean foil quiche tin
  • A drawing pin
  • A pencil with a rubber end
  • A woollen glove

Instructions

  1. Push the drawing pin through the centre of the foil tin and push the rubber end of the pencil on to it to form a handle
  2. Rub the polystyrene quickly with the glove
  3. Using the pencil handle, put the foil tin on top of the polystyrene. Don’t touch the foil or the polystyrene
  4. Bring an outstretched finger close to the tin and see what happens

Results and Explanation

You should hear, feel and maybe even see a tiny spark!
Rubbing the polystyrene makes it negatively charged. This excess charge repels the electrons in the foil. Your finger provides an escape route for the electrons in the foil and as they jump the gap you get a small electric shock.

These experiments have not been specifically safety tested for home use but we believe them to be safe if the instructions are followed. Adult supervision or direction is recommended as appropriate. All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

Charge
can be determined for a Positron Muon Tau W Boson Z Boson Proton Quark
can be determined for an Electron Antitau Antimuon Antiquark
is used in analyses relating to Ionisation
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