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
31197 times

More from MIT Department of Physics Technical Services Group

Feather and Coin in a Vacuum

Feather and Coin in a Vacuum

Added over 3 years ago | 00:02:08 | 20314 views

Bell Labs Wave Machine: Matched Impedance

Bell Labs Wave Machine: Matched Imp...

Added over 3 years ago | 00:01:13 | 11370 views

Speed of a Bullet

Speed of a Bullet

Added almost 6 years ago | 00:00:22 | 43455 views

Push Me, Pull You

Push Me, Pull You

Added almost 6 years ago | 00:01:42 | 33074 views

MIT Physics Demo -- Resonant RLC Circuit

MIT Physics Demo -- Resonant RLC Ci...

Added over 6 years ago | 00:00:47 | 48279 views

Loop the Loop

Loop the Loop

Added over 3 years ago | 00:03:18 | 17016 views