Introduction: The World's Simplest Electrostatic Machine

Picture of The World's Simplest Electrostatic Machine

With a simple plastic cutting board you can build an electrostatic generating device, powerful enough to produce little shocks and even small sparks. This is a really simple project that can be made in very little time: the power of electricity is just a few steps away!
Also see how to build a Van de Graaff Generator - plans at:

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

You will need:
- A plastic cutting board
- Aluminum foil
- Electrical tape
- Stick glue
- A soft cloth

Step 2: Place the Aluminum Over the Cutting Board

Picture of Place the Aluminum Over the Cutting Board

Cut the Aluminum foil in a piece enough to cover the major part of the cutting board leaving about 1/2” on both ends uncovered.
Glue the cut Aluminum foil over one side of the cutting board, making sure it is stretched.

Step 3: Cover the Borders

Picture of Cover the Borders

Cover the borders of the Aluminum with Electrical tape. You can cover the four boarders or just the smaller two.


Step 4: Operating the Machine

Picture of Operating the Machine

To operate the machine hold the cutting board with one hand and rub the surface without Aluminum using the soft cloth.

Step 5: Operating Detail

Picture of Operating Detail

While rubbing touch the Aluminum foil with one finger of the hand that is holding the board.
Just touch and release one time while still rubbing, then apart the cloth and your machine will became charged.

Step 6: See It Working

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If you touch the Aluminum with a Neon lamp you can see it brights for a second.
Touching the Aluminum part with your finger you will fell a little shock and touching with an round metallic object you can see a small spark.

Hint : If you have trouble operating the machine and think it is not working , it is probable because humidity: blown hot air over the board and over the cloth, it should works now.


Dreistein (author)2012-05-01

hey i'd like to make a device i can attach to say my foot ,that if i touch someone they would get a shock basically like when you walk with socks over a carpet but the effect is automated. A guy made an ible where he makes what im describing but its not very detailed. any ideas?

1000% (author)2011-06-22

This does not work like my creator I am known to make stuff I have made this test unsucessful

would this work with a leyden jar?

turner_chris1 (author)2010-08-04

is this what's normally called an "electrophorus" see the wiki article -

apparently not.... it's just static electricity powering a small light bulb...

impedance214 (author)2009-10-02

do this electrostatic machine can be used as a source of electrostatic electricity for my electrostatic motor?

You can try... but the charge generated from this device is normally too small to produce strong electrostatic effects.

kevinsa5 (author)innovationview2010-07-19

does it just need more capacity? you could probably increase the stored charge by putting several layers of aluminum foil on.

ravebot (author)2008-10-06

thanks fun to play with

miiwii3 (author)ravebot2009-02-21


ravebot (author)miiwii32009-03-01


dragonsniper (author)ravebot2009-07-15

does this actually work

zimmemic25 (author)dragonsniper2009-10-02

yes. even before having tried it, i knew it must work, because: - the aluminium can store electric charge - rubbing the cloth on the aluminium will cause it to charge - touching the aluminium while rubbing it with the cloth will decharge it, so it will be uncharged _as long as you are touching/rubbing it with the cloth_. -> this means as soon as you take away the cloth, the aluminium will be charged.

zimmemic25 (author)zimmemic252009-10-02

i just remembered that i once had to charge an electroscope for school, and because all van-de-graaff generators were in use, i took my Polyethylene lunch box and rubbed it with my sweatshirt's arms. that produced enough charge for the electroscope to react more than with some of my classmate's generators...

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