Triboelectric effect/triboelectric series

Rubbing balloon with hair.
Rubbing a rubber balloon with hair to charge it with 
Shock from car door handle.
Getting a shock from a car door handle that's been charged due
      to the triboelectric effect.

The triboelectric effect is what causes a balloon to become electrically charged when you rub it against your hair, or a car to become charged from its tires rolling on the road resulting in a shock when you touch the door handle.

Basically it's an effect that causes charging of two objects by making contact and then breaking contact. One becomes positively charged by giving up some of its electrons and the other becomes negatively charged by taking those electrons and keeping them after contact is broken. The more you make and break contact, the bigger the charge will be. For example, the more you rub a balloon against you hair, the more charged the balloon and you hair will become.

Which materials become charged in what way is listed in an an order called the triboelectric series (see the triboelectric series table below.) The triboelectric series has a positive end and a negative end. The farther apart any two materials are in the series, the more charged they will become. The material that's toward the positive end will become positively charged and the material that's toward the negative end will become negatively charged.

Examples of triboelectricity.
Glass with vinyl.
Plastic comb with hair.
Plastic soda bottle with hair.
Socks on carpet.
Vinyl (PVC) pipe with cotton facecloth.
Triboelectric series table.1
Most positively charged
Polyuerthane foam
Hair, Oily skin
Nylon, Dry skin
Glass (soda)
Arcylic, Lucite
Rabbit fur
Cat fur
Cotton (small positive charge)
Wool (no charge)
Wood (small negative charge)
Sealing wax
Rubber balloon
Hard rubber
Acetate, Rayon
Synthetic rubber
Styrene, Polystyrene
Plastic wrap
Polyethylene (like Scotch tape)
Vinyl (PVC)
Silicone rubber
Most negatively charged

Video - Triboelectric effect/series or triboelectricity

The following video explains how the triboelectric effect works and gives several demonstratons.


1. The table on this page is from with the metals removed as experimentally there is very little charge affinity, possibly because the rapid motion of conduction electrons cancels the effect.
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