The weather has been super dry here lately. March is definitely a weird time here in SoCal – you get random days of rain, which never happens the rest of the year, but the air is dry. Not great for the skin.
But you know what dry air is good for? Static electricity experiments!
This is one of those simple experiments that require so little but makes your kid think you just performed magic. I love it when they jump up and down in excitement because science is just so mind-blowing!
How to Separate Pepper from Salt
- Small balloon (we used a water balloon)
- Shake some salt and pepper in a small dish (most likely your child will want to do this).
- Stir the salt and pepper together.
- Ask your child if he/she can think of a way to separate pepper from salt WITHOUT using his/her hands (most likely met with puzzled looks).
- Blow up a small balloon.
- Rub the balloon on your pants.
- Hold the statically charged balloon over the dish (not touching the salt and pepper).
- Watch and listen as the pepper fly up and get stuck to the balloon.
- Show your kids how only the pepper flakes are on the balloon and not salt.
The Science Behind the Static Electricity Experiment
Static electricity occurs when there is an imbalance of electric charges on the surface of a material, or in this case, the balloon. When you rub the balloon on your clothes, electrons are ripped out from your clothes and bind to the surface of the balloon.
When you hold the negatively charged balloon to the salt and pepper mixture, the static electricity attracts the salt and pepper to the balloon. Since we are using a small balloon, it only holds a small charge and therefore only attracts the lighter particles, the pepper.
If you try this experiment with a large balloon, you will find that the charge is must stronger and you will be able to attract both the salt and the pepper particles from the dish.
Final Thoughts on the Salt and Pepper Static Electricity Experiment
My kids loved this simple and fun experiment and did it over and over. They tried rubbing the balloon on different surfaces to see if it will get charged.
You can also try different items, such as a comb (run it through your hair to charge it!) or a spoon (rub it on wool clothing).
Do have a vacuum cleaner nearby, because the salt and pepper will get out of the dish. But for something that amused my kid for an hour, it’s worth the quick clean up!
I hope you like the quick and simple science experiment! If you tried it, comment below and let me know how it went!