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Students explore static electricity by watching charge interactions as they rub a virtual balloon against a wool sweater and a wall. The simulation illustrates charge transfer and polarization of insulators. Recently rewritten to HTML5.

This item is part of a larger collection of simulations developed by the Physics Education Technology project (PhET). The simulations are animated, interactive, and game-like environments.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electrostatics
= Charge
= Conductors and Insulators
- High School
- Middle School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Interactive Simulation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 2005 University of Colorado at Boulder.
Additional information is available.
electric charge, electrostatics, static electricity
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created October 6, 2006 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
September 2, 2018 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 3, 2006
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 9-12: 4D/H1. Atoms are made of a positively charged nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons. The nucleus is a tiny fraction of the volume of an atom but makes up almost all of its mass. The nucleus is composed of protons and neutrons which have roughly the same mass but differ in that protons are positively charged while neutrons have no electric charge.
  • 9-12: 4D/H2. The number of protons in the nucleus determines what an atom's electron configuration can be and so defines the element. An atom's electron configuration, particularly the outermost electrons, determines how the atom can interact with other atoms. Atoms form bonds to other atoms by transferring or sharing electrons.
4G. Forces of Nature
  • 6-8: 4G/M5. A charged object can be charged in one of two ways, which we call either positively charged or negatively charged. Two objects that are charged in the same manner exert a force of repulsion on each other, while oppositely charged objects exert a force of attraction on each other.
  • 9-12: 4G/H3. Most materials have equal numbers of protons and electrons and are therefore electrically neutral. In most cases, a material acquires a negative charge by gaining electrons and acquires a positive charge by losing electrons. Even a tiny imbalance in the number of protons and electrons in an object can produce noticeable electric forces on other objects.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.

This resource is part of 2 Physics Front Topical Units.

Topic: "Static" Electricity
Unit Title: Charge Interaction

Explore static electricity by rubbing a virtual balloon on a sweater, then on an adjacent wall. The interactions among the sweater, balloon, and wall illustrate charge transfer and polarization. See "PhET Teacher Ideas" directly below for a step-by-step student guide to use with this simulation.

Link to Unit:

Topic: "Static" Electricity
Unit Title: Static Electricity for the Early Grades

This simulation is fun for teachers and students alike. Rub the virtual balloon against the sweater and watch the charge transfer from the wool to the balloon. Then move the balloon to an adjacent wall with neutral charge -- kids will see an interaction they probably won't expect. These interactions among the sweater, balloon, and wall will help students understand that opposites attract in charge interactions, while identical charges repel. Just as important, the model shows that charge is conserved.....the electrons are separated and transferred somewhere else.

Link to Unit:
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
(PhET, Boulder, 2005), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/balloons-and-static-electricity).
PhET Simulation: Balloons and Static Electricity (PhET, Boulder, 2005), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/balloons-and-static-electricity>.
APA Format
PhET Simulation: Balloons and Static Electricity. (2006, March 3). Retrieved June 19, 2024, from PhET: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/balloons-and-static-electricity
Chicago Format
PhET. PhET Simulation: Balloons and Static Electricity. Boulder: PhET, March 3, 2006. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/balloons-and-static-electricity (accessed 19 June 2024).
MLA Format
PhET Simulation: Balloons and Static Electricity. Boulder: PhET, 2005. 3 Mar. 2006. 19 June 2024 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/balloons-and-static-electricity>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PhET Simulation: Balloons and Static Electricity}, Publisher = {PhET}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {19 June 2024}, Month = {March 3, 2006}, Year = {2005} }
Refer Export Format

%T PhET Simulation: Balloons and Static Electricity %D March 3, 2006 %I PhET %C Boulder %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/balloons-and-static-electricity %O application/java

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D March 3, 2006 %T PhET Simulation: Balloons and Static Electricity %I PhET %V 2024 %N 19 June 2024 %8 March 3, 2006 %9 application/java %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/balloons-and-static-electricity

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

The Chicago Style presented is based on information from Examples of Chicago-Style Documentation.

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PhET Simulation: Balloons and Static Electricity:

Contains PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Exploring Electric Charges

An inquiry-based student guide developed specifically for use with the Balloons and Static Electricity simulation. It gives explicit help in simulation set-up with guided inquiry for students as they explore interactively. Appropriate for middle school and 9th grade physical science.

relation by Caroline Hall
Is a Student Extra Of Physics Classroom: Polarization
Is a Teaching Guide For Physics Classroom: Polarization

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