Hovering Snowflake Decorations

Decorate in style during this holiday season with levitating snowflakes. Some household supplies and a twist on static electricity will get the job done.

What You Need

  • A balloon
  • A wool sweater or clean, dry hair
  • PVC Wrapping Paper

Image Credit: Pen Waggener

What to Do

1. Cut a 5"x5" square of PVC wrapping paper.
2. Fold the square in half and cut around the sides and inside to design your own snowflake.
3. Blow up a balloon.
4. Rub the balloon on your sweater or on clean dry hair for at least 30 seconds.
5. Hold the snowflake about a foot above the balloon and drop it.
6. Observe what happens first.
7. You should now be able to control the hovering snowflake by moving the balloon below it.

What's Going On?

By rubbing the balloon on the wool sweater or your hair, you build up a negative charge on the balloon. Opposite charges attract; likewise, same charges will repel each other.

At first, the balloon’s negative charge will force the electrons in the paper to align away from the balloon. This will polarize the charges in the paper snowflake, inducing a slight positive charge on the side facing the balloon. On the other side of the paper, however, there will be a slight negative charge; thus, the paper remains about neutral.

But the positive side of the paper will be closer to the balloon, and these opposite charges will attract until the balloon and paper come into contact. Once this happens, electrons will flow from the negatively-charged balloon to the neutral paper.

Very quickly, the snowflake will gain an overall negative charge. The balloon will maintain some of its overall negative charge as well. Consequently, the two objects will repel, causing the snowflake to levitate above the balloon.

Apply It!

Try tying together pieces of Christmas tree tinsel and hovering it above your charged balloon.

-Jamie Garrett