Human Conductor of Electricity | Science Experiment

Ordinary people use standard electricity from the wall to power a light.

Human Conductor of Electricity: An Electrifying Science Experiment
Want to learn how to make a light bulb work without electricity? Our human-powered light bulb experiment will show how ordinary people can power a lightbulb — no electricity required! Amazing? Yes. Impossible? No!
In this shocking display of science, you’ll amaze your friends, family and fellow students. Regular people will use static electricity that’s powered by a balloon to light up a bulb. Read on to learn how to make a light bulb work without the use of standard electricity and get ready for that famous Steve Spangler Science

WOW factor that will impress and amaze!
Human-Powered Light Bulb Experiment

• Darken the room. Hold a fluorescent bulb in one hand and a balloon in the other. Rub the balloon vigorously on your hair (or on a wool sweater).

• Bring the balloon near the bulb and watch what happens. Was that a flicker of light? Did the bulb really just light up?

• Without touching the bulb directly, move the static-filled balloon up and down the length of the bulb. The light should sort of follow the balloon.

• Touch the balloon to the glass; did you just see a spark? It’s impossible, right?

• Try it again, and again, and again! Wow!

Experiment Materials

  • Fluorescent light
  • Balloon
  • Wool sweater

Experiment

1

Darken the room. Hold the fluorescent bulb in one hand and the balloon in the other. Rub the balloon vigorously on your hair (or on a wool sweater).

2

Bring the balloon near the bulb and watch what happens. Was that a flicker of light? Did the bulb really light up?

3

Move the balloon up and down the bulb without touching the bulb. The light should sort of follow the balloon.

4

Touch the balloon to the glass and see if you can get a spark to jump.

5

You can’t believe your eyes… so, go back to step 1 and do it again.

How Does It Work

Electrons are subatomic particles with a charge of electricity. These tiny particles are relatively free to jump from one atom to the next. They’re also attracted to some materials more than others (like your hair and wool sweaters). When you rub a balloon on your hair (or on a sweater), electrons from your hair (or the sweater) jump over to the balloon and stay there.

The inside of a fluorescent light tube is coated with a white material that’s made up of phosphors. If you bombard phosphors with ultraviolet light, they will emit visible light. In normal operation, the fluorescent tube is connected to an electrical current source. The electrical current supplies those electrons, which then causes the electrons to slam around inside the tube. Inside the tube there is also mercury vapor. When electrons collide with the mercury vapor, they cause the vapor to emit ultraviolet light. The combination of the electrons’ activity, the phosphors and mercury vapor all cause that tube to light up.

When you brought the negatively charged balloon near that fluorescent tube, you stirred up those electrons in the mercury vapor. In other words, the static produced the electrical current needed to excite the mercury atoms. The excited mercury atoms emitted ultraviolet light and caused the phosphors to glow. When a spark jumps, you get a big release of energy and a correspondingly brighter glow!

Take It Further

Electricity Science Experiments for Kids
This seemingly impossible trick is your jumping off point in your science discussions about subatomic particles, electricity and chemistry! There’s so much to explore. You can also add some variables to take this seemingly simple experiment to the next level.

• Charge a balloon and then blow soap bubbles. Bring the balloon close to the bubbles; they rise rapidly toward the balloon, right? Now try to tease the bubble around the room by using the balloon.

• Rub a balloon on someone’s hair, then bring it near someone else’s hair. The hair will be positively charged, while the balloon’s electrons will be negatively charged. The result? Hair will stand up.

• Charge a balloon and bring it close to a ping-pong ball. The ball will begin to move slowly toward the balloon. Move the balloon around; the ball will follow!

• Place a charged balloon near pieces of paper; the paper isn’t charged, so you might expect nothing to happen. But the paper is attracted to the balloon. Why? The negative charge of the balloon repels the electrons in paper, making them (on average) farther from the balloon’s charge than are the positive charges in the paper. Because electrical forces decrease in strength with distance, the attraction between the negatives and the positives is stronger than the repulsion between the negatives and the negatives. This leads to an overall attraction. The paper is said to have an “induced charge.” This explanation applies to a charged balloon sticking to a wall and a charged balloon attracting other uncharged objects, too!

Additional Info

Try the Static Powered Neon Light to demonstrate the power of static electricity.

  • Use a Static Tube to uncover hidden static electricity.
  • Charge a balloon and bring it close to a ping-pong ball. The ball will begin to move very slowly toward the balloon. Move the balloon around and the ball will follow.
  • Charge a balloon and then blow soap bubbles. Bring the balloon close to the bubbles and they rise rapidly toward the balloon. Now you can tease the bubble around the room with the balloon.
  • When you rub a balloon on someone’s hair the balloon picks up electrons, leaving it negatively charged and the hair positively charged. Because opposite charges attract, bringing the balloon near the hair causes the hair to stand up.
  • When you bring a charged balloon near pieces of paper, the paper isn’t charged so you might expect nothing to happen. But the paper is attracted to the balloon. Why? The negative charge on the balloon repels the electrons in the paper, making them (on average) farther from the balloon’s charge than are the positive charges in the paper. Because electrical forces decrease in strength with distance, the attraction between the negatives and positives is stronger than the repulsion between the negatives and negatives. This leads to an overall attraction. The paper is said to have an induced charge. This explanation applies to a charged balloon sticking to a wall and a charged balloon attracting other uncharged objects.

Amazing Electricity Experiments (and More!) for Kids at Steve Spangler Science

Learning how to make a light bulb work without electricity was fun, wasn’t it? There’s more fun to be explored that you won’t want to miss in the world of science! Check out our online experiment library for fun, easy and hands-on science experiments for kids that you can perform at home, in school or at your STEM club. There’s a whole world full of science principles waiting to be explored in memorable and meaningful ways. Visit our food science experiments, light and sound experiments, color experiments and science fair project ideas at Steve Spangler Science. Get kids excited and keep them asking questions with easy-to-perform experiments with everyday household items. You can also check out our at-home kits or join the Steve Spangler Science Club for a monthly science experiment delivered directly to your door!

Retail Ad – 20200316
Club Ad – 20200316

Related Products