Soda Can Electroscope science experiment : Fizzics Education


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Soda Can Electroscope

Soda Can Electroscope

Follow FizzicsEd 150 Science Experiments:

You will need:

  • One empty Soda Can
  • Insulation Tape
  • One Styrofoam Cup
  • Aluminium Foil
  • Scissors
  • Adult supervision


Materials needed for a soda can electroscope showing a soda can, scissors, tape, aluminium foil and a styrofoam cup
1 Foil hanging off a soda can

Tape the can to the styrofoam cup.

2 Two cut pieces of aluminium foil next to scissors

Cut two strips of aluminium foil, approximately 4cm x 0.5cm.

3 IMG_20180917_154710

Make a hook on the end of each aluminium strip. Hang the strips off the end of the ring pull tab.

Place the electroscope near your TV. What happens to the strips? Why?

4 Bringing a charged balloon toward a soda can electroscope - the foil hanging from the ring pull on the can is attracted towards the balloon

“A very simple electroscope!”

Try charging up a balloon by rubbing it with a piece of cloth. Bring it near the electroscope… what happens?

5 A man placing his hand on a plasma globe. Energy is streaming out of the tesla coil towards his fingers

Get the Electricity & Magnetism Unit of Work here!

  • How does electricity actually flow?
  • What makes magnets become magnetic?
  • Why is there electromagnetism and what does this tell us about electricity & magnetism?
  • From series & parallel circuits to conductors & insulators, there’s a lot to explore & learn!

Includes cross-curricular teaching ideas, student quizzes, a sample marking rubric, scope & sequences & more.

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6 Creating sparks on a Van de Graf generator
7 Teacher showing how to do an experiment outside to a group of kids.

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– Help students learn how science really works

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Why Does This Happen?

Like charges repel each other, opposite charges attract each other. As you rub the electroscope, electrical charges from the Aluminium can come down to the Aluminium foil leaves, which then repel each other as they have the same charge, either positive or negative.

As you put this near other statically charged objects (e.g. a TV), the charge strips will move, depending on whether the aluminium strips are attracted or repelled to the appliance. You can tell whether the static from an appliance is positively charged or negatively charged. If an object with the opposing charge is brought near the electroscope, the strips of Aluminium leaves will hang straight down. The strips no longer repel each other because the charge has been discharged.

The electroscope can also be charged by electrostatic induction. If you bring a charged object near the electroscope this will make the leaves also diverge, as the electric field of the object causes the charges in the electroscope rod to separate.

Variables to test

More on variables here

  • How thick can the strips of foil be before it doesn’t work?
  • What happens if the soda can is still wet inside?
  • Can you attach the can to a metal, ceramic, plastic or glass cup instead?

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