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Physics/static electricity


Hi Steve,

Can a rubber balloon be charged..since rubber is an insulator. If so is it more likely to be negatively or positively charged? Is there a maximum amount of charge that can be deposited? Thanks

Hello ayee,

Yes it can. Check out this website:
In the 2nd paragraph they say "Usually, substances that don't conduct current electricity (insulators) are good at holding a charge."

The most likely polarity of the balloon's charge is hard to answer. Check out this website:
An incomplete Triboelectric_series is given. You'll find "rubber balloon" listed on the negative side of neutral. If you rub a balloon with a material above it on the list, the balloon will receive a negative charge. If you rub it with a material below it on the list, it will receive a positive charge. There are 21 materials above the rubber balloon, and 19 materials below it.

For any pair of materials, there is a balance between the charge of the 2 of them. This amount of charge depends on the size of the 2 objects. It might be more general to talk about the potential that can be developed between the 2 objects. The maximum value is not a firm number, but you could probably determine a general value for every pair of objects by experiment.

I hope this helps,


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Steve Johnson


I would be delighted to help with questions up through the first year of college Physics. Particularly Electricity, Electronics and Newtonian Mechanics (motion, acceleration etc.). I decline questions on relativity and Atomic Physics. I also could discuss the Space Shuttle and space flight in general.


I have a BS in Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering. I am retired now. My professional career was in Electrical Engineering with considerable time spent working with accelerometers, gyroscopes and flight dynamics (Physics related topics) while working on the Space Shuttle. I gave formal classroom lessons to technical co-workers periodically over a several year period.

BS Physics, North Dakota State University
MS Electrical Engineering, North Dakota State University

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