Welcome to practical physicsPracticle physics - practical activities designed for use in the classroom with 11 to 19 year olds

Van de Graaff generator

A Van de Graaff generator can produce extremely high potential differences (voltages). A small school version can pump a huge charge onto the top dome so that the potential difference between the dome and the earth can be 200 000 volts yet the total charge is so tiny that you only receive a small shock when you touch it. This makes possible dramatic demonstration experiments which convey important ideas about charges and currents.


Experiments with a Van de Graaff generator

Moving charges are an electric current

Model of ions in motion

Clearing smoke


Related Guidance


Electric charge and current - a short history

Van de Graaff generator - the basics

Van de Graaff generator safety