How to Make Static Electricity Generators

by Samuel Sohlden

The spectacular show of static electricity popularized by Van de Graff is a merely the phenomenon of "wireless electricity". Static electricity generators reflect key concepts of electricity and allow for a visual display of society's most important form of energy. Static electricity displays an important concept of chemistry,(the transfer of electrons between different substances) and can be displayed using a home made static electricity generator. Static electricity generators can be made using materials readily available around the house, although you may have to buy one or two materials.


Determine how large of a static electricity generator you want to build. Larger generators require a more powerful motor, longer rubberized fabric,and a longer shaft pipe.


An upside down metal pan will serve as your base. Drill a hole in the center of your pan large enough to fit the plastic pipe shaft into. Do the same with your second metal pan, this will serve as the bottom portion of the top. A pie shaped piece of wood is also needed for support at the base. Cut a hole the width of the plastic tube through the center using a scroll saw and place this on top of the metal pans base.


Install the plastic rollers and motors into the pans that make up the bottom and top portions of the generator. Use epoxy glue and sheet metal brackets to fasten the rollers and motors. A DC motor will allow you to control the speed of the belt, but an AC motor works just as well.


Cut a length of rubberized cloth that will fit the plastic rollers you have just installed. The belt should form a continuous loop vertically through the static electricity generator. Once you have the correct length, cover the fabric side of the cloth with rubber cement. Allow the rubber cement to dry.


Install the belt on the rollers. Once the belt is installed test drive the belt by running the motors to make sure it operates correctly. Make sure that the belt does not touch anywhere except the rollers to avoid electrical discharge.


Install the copper screen wire into the pan now forming the top portion of the generator.Make sure the wire is attached to the pan while allowing the copper wire to just make contact with the moving belt. This friction is what creates the static electricity which will transfer to the outside of the device. If desired, the copper screen can be very intricate, covering the entire surface area of your top pan.


Finish the device by attaching the third pan on to the now exposed top portion of the generator. The two pans at the top should form an egg structure, with one pan facing down and one pan facing up. Glue the two sections together with epoxy.Now your static electricity generator is ready for use. Use it in the dark to display the visual art of static electricity.

Items you will need

About the Author

Samuel Sohlden began his freelance writing career in 2007. His work appears on various websites, with articles focusing on science and health. In 2010 he attended the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, Calif. Sohlden is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from the University of Cincinnati.

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  • photo_camera vandergraff image by askthegeek from