Chemistry Magazine

Static Flash

Posted on the 09 March 2011 by Jerry At Ays

CFL lamp and combThis is a good project to try in the winter when the air is dry. It’s another way to use static electricity to make light flash in your hands.

Simple to do, all you need is a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) and a comb. No need to screw the lamp into a light socket, you just hold the lamp in your hand.

Go into a dark room and let your eyes get used to the dark for a minute or so.

Hold the lamp at the solid plastic base and run the comb through your hair to charge it with static electricity.

As you bring the comb close, the lamp will flicker and flash.  Charge your comb again and do it some more. You can let the comb touch the glass and see how the light flashes change.

Hold the lamp base with your thumb and middle and ring fingers, leaving your index finger free.  Charge your comb, run it over the lamp, and watch the glow following your comb.

Now, tap your index finger against the glass and watch it flash again as you discharge it.


Rubbing the comb through your hair generates thousands of volts of static electricity.  This is enough voltage to energize the lamp and make the phosphor glow.

You can safely do this again and again as long as you want.

Just another fun thing to try with your young scientist!

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