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!

MIT Department of Physics Technical Services Group

MIT Department of Physics Technical Services Group

Category: Science | Updated over 1 year ago

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


Viewed
31701 times

More from MIT Department of Physics Technical Services Group

MIT Physics Demo -- Microwave Interference

MIT Physics Demo -- Microwave Inter...

Added over 6 years ago | 00:02:11 | 26927 views

Hero's Engine

Hero's Engine

Added almost 4 years ago | 00:01:38 | 20957 views

Fiber Optic Bundle

Fiber Optic Bundle

Added over 2 years ago | 00:01:20 | 4089 views

Curie Point of Iron

Curie Point of Iron

Added over 2 years ago | 00:01:23 | 4170 views

Paramagnetism Of Liquid Oxygen

Paramagnetism Of Liquid Oxygen

Added almost 3 years ago | 00:02:22 | 8946 views

MIT Physics Demo -- Pendulum and Magnet

MIT Physics Demo -- Pendulum and Ma...

Added over 6 years ago | 00:01:11 | 40379 views