Doctor Frankenstein would have loved this experiment that makes electrons jump from place to place, with a shocking conclusion. You can watch us demonstrate it on Kare11 Sunrise by clicking here.
To make an electrophorus, or charge carrier, all you need is a Styrofoam plate, a cardboard square large enough to tape the plate onto, an aluminum pie pan, a Styrofoam cup, aluminum foil and wool, like an old mitten or stocking cap.
Tape the foam cup to the inside of the pie pan. Then cover the cardboard with foil and tape the plate on to the surface, facing down.
For your Leyden jar, which can make a bigger spark and shock, you’ll need a plastic film canister or an empty spice jar*, a nail longer than the canister, aluminum foil and water.
Cover the outside of the bottom of the film canister or spice jar with foil, push the nail through the cap, fill it 3/4 up with water and replace the lid/nail so the nail is in the water. *If you’re using a spice jar, put foil on the bottom half of the jar, remove the lid, fill it 3/4 full of water, and make a new “lid” by covering the top of the container with duct tape. Stick your nail through the duct tape and your Leyden jar is ready to go! If your nail doesn’t stay in place, use more duct tape to secure it!
Now rub the foam plate with wool for about a minute. The Styrofoam attracts electrons from the wool, giving the plate a negative charge.
It’s important to do the next steps in order!
1. Put the pie tin on the foam plate. The electrons on the pie tin are repelled by the negative charge on the plate, but they can’t go anywhere.
2. Put your thumb on the foil at the bottom and leave it there while you touch the pie tin with a finger on the same hand. You should feel a small spark as the electrons jump from the pie plate to your hand, leaving the plate with a positive charge.
3. Lift the plate using the foam cup and touch it to the head of the nail on your Leyden jar. Electrons will flow from the nail to the pie plate, leaving the nail and inside of the jar with a positive charge. Repeat steps 1-3 a few times to build up a charge in your Leyden jar.
4. When you’re ready for a shock, put your thumb on the foil on the bottom of your Leyden jar, leave it there, and bring your fingertip close to the nail on the jar. Electrons will jump from the negatively charged foil on the bottom of the jar to the positively charged nail, giving you a shock. If you try it in the dark, you may see a spark as the electrons move through the air to your finger!
When you’re tired of getting shocked, you can always whip up a batch of color-changing, bubbling Magic Potion! Click here for directions and a video.