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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe some of the many practical applications of electrostatics, including several printing technologies
  • Relate these applications to Newton’s second law and the electric force

The study of electrostatics has proven useful in many areas. This module covers just a few of the many applications of electrostatics.

The van de graaff generator

Van de Graaff generator     s (or Van de Graaffs) are not only spectacular devices used to demonstrate high voltage due to static electricity—they are also used for serious research. The first was built by Robert Van de Graaff in 1931 (based on original suggestions by Lord Kelvin) for use in nuclear physics research. [link] shows a schematic of a large research version. Van de Graaffs use both smooth and pointed surfaces, and conductors and insulators to generate large static charges and, hence, large voltages.

A very large excess charge can be deposited on the sphere because it moves quickly to the outer surface. Practical limits arise because the large electric fields polarize and eventually ionize surrounding materials, creating free charges that neutralize excess charge or allow it to escape. Nevertheless, voltages of 15 million volts are well within practical limits.

The figure shows the schematic of Van de Graaff generator.
Schematic of Van de Graaff generator. A battery ( A ) supplies excess positive charge to a pointed conductor, the points of which spray the charge onto a moving insulating belt near the bottom. The pointed conductor ( B ) on top in the large sphere picks up the charge. (The induced electric field at the points is so large that it removes the charge from the belt.) This can be done because the charge does not remain inside the conducting sphere but moves to its outside surface. An ion source inside the sphere produces positive ions, which are accelerated away from the positive sphere to high velocities.


Most copy machines use an electrostatic process called xerography    —a word coined from the Greek words xeros for dry and graphos for writing. The heart of the process is shown in simplified form in [link] .

The figure illustrates the four stages of Xerography – charging the drum, positive image made on drum, toner attached to image and toner pulled from drum by highly charged paper.
Xerography is a dry copying process based on electrostatics. The major steps in the process are the charging of the photoconducting drum, transfer of an image, creating a positive charge duplicate, attraction of toner to the charged parts of the drum, and transfer of toner to the paper. Not shown are heat treatment of the paper and cleansing of the drum for the next copy.

A selenium-coated aluminum drum is sprayed with positive charge from points on a device called a corotron. Selenium is a substance with an interesting property—it is a photoconductor    . That is, selenium is an insulator when in the dark and a conductor when exposed to light.

In the first stage of the xerography process, the conducting aluminum drum is grounded so that a negative charge is induced under the thin layer of uniformly positively charged selenium. In the second stage, the surface of the drum is exposed to the image of whatever is to be copied. In locations where the image is light, the selenium becomes conducting, and the positive charge is neutralized. In dark areas, the positive charge remains, so the image has been transferred to the drum.

Questions & Answers

what is principle of superposition
Jyoti Reply
what are questions that are likely to come out during exam
King Reply
what is electricity
Jyoti Reply
watt is electricity.
electricity ka full definition with formula
If a point charge is released from rest in a uniform electric field will it follow a field line? Will it do so if the electric field is not uniform?
Sadaqat Reply
Maxwell's stress tensor is
Ami Reply
neither vector nor scalar
if 6.0×10^13 electrons are placed on a metal sphere of charge 9.0micro Coulombs, what is the net charge on the sphere
Rita Reply
18.51micro Coulombs
Is it possible to find the magnetic field of a circular loop at the centre by using ampere's law?
Rb Reply
Is it possible to find the magnetic field of a circular loop at it's centre?
Rb Reply
The density of a gas of relative molecular mass 28 at a certain temperature is 0.90 K kgmcube.The root mean square speed of the gas molecules at that temperature is 602ms.Assuming that the rate of diffusion of a gas in inversely proportional to the square root of its density,calculate the density of
Gifty Reply
A hot liquid at 80degree Celsius is added to 600g of the same liquid originally at 10 degree Celsius. when the mixture reaches 30 degree Celsius, what will be the total mass of the liquid?
Under which topic
what is electrostatics
Yakub Reply
Study of charges which are at rest
Explain Kinematics
Glory Reply
Two equal positive charges are repelling each other. The force on the charge on the left is 3.0 Newtons. Using your notes on Coulomb's law, and the forces acting on each of the charges, what is the force on the charge on the right?
Nya Reply
Using the same two positive charges, the left positive charge is increased so that its charge is 4 times LARGER than the charge on the right. Using your notes on Coulomb's law and changes to the charge, once the charge is increased, what is the new force of repulsion between the two positive charges?
A mass 'm' is attached to a spring oscillates every 5 second. If the mass is increased by a 5 kg, the period increases by 3 second. Find its initial mass 'm'
Md Reply
a hot water tank containing 50,000g of water is heated by an electric immersion heater rated at 3kilowatt,240volt, calculate the current
Samuel Reply
what is charge
Aamir Reply
product of current and time
Practice Key Terms 5

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Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 2. OpenStax CNX. Oct 06, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12074/1.3
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