What is the difference between static electricity and electrocution?


Static electricity and electrocution are both thousands of volts of electricity, but static electricity has a very low current.

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Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charges within or on the surface of a material. The charge remains until it is able to move away by means of an electric current or electrical discharge. Static electricity is named in contrast with current electricity, which flows through wires or other conductors and transmits energy.

A static electric charge is created whenever two surfaces contact and separate, and at least one of the surfaces has a high resistance to electrical current (and is therefore an electrical insulator). The effects of static electricity are familiar to most people because people can feel, hear, and even see the spark as the excess charge is neutralized when brought close to a large electrical conductor (for example, a path to ground), or a region with an excess charge of the opposite polarity (positive or negative). The familiar phenomenon of a static shock–more specifically, an electrostatic discharge–is caused by the neutralization of charge.


Stray voltage is the occurrence of electrical potential between two objects that ideally should not have any voltage difference between them. Small voltages often exist between two grounded objects in separate locations, due to normal current flow in the power system. Large voltages can appear on the enclosures of electrical equipment due to a fault in the electrical power system, such as a failure of insulation.

Electric shock occurs upon contact of a (human) body part with any source of electricity that causes a sufficient current through the skin, muscles, or hair. Typically, the expression is used to describe an injurious exposure to electricity. Very small currents can be imperceptible. Larger current passing through the body may make it impossible for a shock victim to let go of an energized object. Still larger currents can cause fibrillation of the heart and damage to tissues. Death caused by an electric shock is called electrocution.

Wiring or other metalwork which is at a hazardous voltage which can constitute a risk of electric shock is called "live", as in "live wire".

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