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SPARKS. Electrons. An atom consists of a small positively charged nucleus surrounded by an equal number of negatively charged electrons.

In a stable, neutral atom, there are the same amounts of positive and negative charges. All electrostatic effects are due to the movement of electrons. The law of electric charge states that: like charges repel and unlike charges attract. When a polythene rod is rubbed with a duster, electrons are transferred from the duster to the polythene, making the polythene negatively charged. An object has: a negative charge due to an excess of electrons or a positive charge due to a lack of electrons. Electric shocks. When inflammable gases or vapours are present, or there is a high concentration of oxygen, a spark from static electricity could ignite the gases or vapours and cause an explosion. If a person touches something at a high voltage, large amounts of electric charge may flow through their body to earth. Separating charges can create a spark because they can cause a discharge as they try to neutralise. Static electricity can be a nuisance but not dangerous. Dust and dirt are attracted to insulators, such as television screens. Clothes are made from modern synthetic materials and often cling to the body. This is because the synthetic materials are insulators, and so electric charge cannot flow through them. When the body moves and friction is created between fabrics, electrostatic charge builds up on them as the electrons transfer from one fabric to another making them positively or negatively charged. If you walk across a synthetic carpet or vinyl flooring wearing shoes with insulating soles you may become electrostatically charged due to friction. The charge will flow through the body to earth as soon as you touch something connecting to earth such as a metal rail or water pipe, this creates a mild shock. Dusters can be made of electret fibres that have positive and negative electric charge on them. Since unlike charges attract, the dusters attract and trap the dust. Anti-static sprays, liquids and tumble drier cloths made from conducting materials carry away electric charge preventing the build-up of charge. An electric shock is dangerous as the body is a good conductor of electricity. If the body comes in contact with something that has a large electric charge on it, the charge will flow through the body as the lowest resistance route to earth. This will cause the muscles in the body to contract and can also stop the heart from beating. To avoid an electric shock, the current flow needs to be stopped. Make sure the device is correctly earthed the device is earthed if there is an earth wire connected between the metal casing of the electrical appliance on earth. If there is a fault and the casing gets a large charge on it, it becomes live. The current flows straight down the earth wire to earth instead of down the body. Stand on an insulating mat made of rubber or plastic if the body comes in contact with a charged object whilst standing on an insulating mat, the current cannot flow through the mat therefore it will not flow through the body. Wearing shoes with insulating soles of rubber or plastic will also have the same effect. Refuelling lorries which pump aviation fuel into aircrafts often get an electrostatic charge because of the friction between the fuel and pipe. An earth wire is connected between the lorry and the aircraft to allow the charges to neutralise. Recently, aviation fuel has bad anti-static additives added to it so that it is less likely to charge up and generate a spark.