Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sign in Create Account

Breakdown of Air

Grounding rod tips of different sizes are used to discharge a large Van de Graaff generator. The larger the curvature of the tip, the more charge must build up to break down the air, resulting in longer sparks. The electricity ionizes air molecules, releasing quick flashes of light.

A pointed tip barely sparks at all, but instead creates an electric field so strong that it forms a tiny ball of plasma just beyond the tip. This is known as "St. Elmo's Fire", and is just visible when all the lights are turned off.

Comments (0)

It looks like no one has posted a comment yet. You can be the first!

You need to log in, in order to post comments. If you don’t have an account yet, sign up now!

Created
March 03, 2010 12:42
Category
Tags
License
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (What is this?)
Additional Files


Viewed
33269 times

More from MIT Department of Physics Technical Services Group

Strobe of a Falling Ball

Strobe of a Falling Ball

Added almost 7 years ago | 00:00:41 | 40975 views

MIT Physics Demo -- Low Friction Atwood Machine

MIT Physics Demo -- Low Friction At...

Added almost 7 years ago | 00:00:46 | 47806 views

Laser Diffraction and Interference

Laser Diffraction and Interference

Added 6 years ago | 00:02:25 | 38168 views

Gyroscopes Made Easy

Gyroscopes Made Easy

Added 3 years ago | 00:29:09 | 6303 views

Bell Labs Wave Machine: Matched Impedance

Bell Labs Wave Machine: Matched Imp...

Added over 4 years ago | 00:01:13 | 12622 views

The Wimshurst Machine

The Wimshurst Machine

Added over 5 years ago | 00:02:33 | 42449 views