Static makes man a live wire


Sydney - An Australian who favoured polyester clothes built up enough static electricity in his body to burn holes in the carpet he walked on, melt a plastic mat in his car and prompt the fire brigade to order the evacuation of three buildings for fear everything would go up in smoke.

Frank Clewer generated more than 40 000 volts of electricity - just short of spontaneous combustion - simply walking through the normally somnolent Victorian city of Warrnambool, national broadcaster ABC reported Friday.

The first Clewer knew of his electrifying performance was when loud crackling sounds started coming from his jacket.

"It sounded almost like a firecracker or something like that," he said. "Within, say, around five minutes the carpet started to erupt."

In his wake were burns the size of coins and a smell of burning so strong that shopkeepers called a brigade from the Country Fire Authority (CFA), who ordered the evacuation of three buildings fearing the voltage could cause more serious electrical problems.

"I actually scorched a piece of plastic I had on the floor of the car," Clewer said, amazed at his own ability to become a walking power station.

"I've just never seen anything like it," Warrnambool firefighter Troy Cleverley said. "Imagine a room of four or five firefighters, two electricians and an electrical inspector all standing around scratching their heads."

Clewer's wife, Margaret, said her cracking and popping noises were coming from her husband.

"It's lucky he wasn't a shopper or he could have burned down half of Warrnambool. "The CFA fellow had to check all the clothes, and then when he took the jacket off it was still generating electricity. It's bizarre. It's unbelievable, really."

Sydney University science lecturer Karl Kruszelnicki said the electrical build-up was likely caused by polyester and other synthetics in the Clewer's clothing.

"This poor guy has built up static electricity thanks to an unfortunate combination of insulating clothes that he's wearing, static, synthetic clothes, just walking along and he's just building up this static charge everywhere," Dr Kruszelnicki said.

"I've read of it but I've never heard of it here in Australia." - Sapa-dpa


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