Dependence of Ice Melting Electrification on Earlier Freezing Rate

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MANY explanations have been offered for the electrification of clouds and precipitation involving effects such as the change of state of water between phases, selective ion capture, a thermo-electric effect in ice, the rupture of water films, induction charging when polarized particles collide, concentration cells and ion diffusion. These processes are probably not all independent, but often only one may have a dominant role1. Dinger and Gunn2 have reported that melting ice containing air acquires a positive charge when ventilated by an air stream which in turn carries away negative charge released as the trapped bubbles burst. Chalmers1 suggests that melting is often particularly important and may account for the positive charge sometimes detected near the base of thunderclouds and also for that usually found on continuous rain. Drake3 observed that when small ice particles melt in a wind tunnel the separation of electric charge is highly dependent on convection currents which develop in the meltwater and rapidly transfer bubbles to the surface where they burst. He showed that the onset of strong convection and the most vigorous electrification occurred only when the heat flow rate to the melting particle was above a certain level. According to Iribarne and Mason4 this charge is produced by the rupture of the electrical layer at the air/water interface. Our experimental results show a new aspect of this melting electrification.

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  1. 1

    Chalmers, J. A., Atmospheric Electricity, second ed. (Pergamon Press, London, 1967).

  2. 2

    Dinger, J. E., and Gunn, R., Terr. Magn. Atmos. Elect., 51, 477 (1946).

  3. 3

    Drake, J. C., Quart. J. Roy. Met. Soc., 94, 176 (1968).

  4. 4

    Iribarne, J. V., and Mason, B. J., Trans. Farad. Soc., 163, 2234 (1967).

  5. 5

    Carte, A. E., Proc. Phys. Soc., 77, 753 (1961).

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HUTCHINSON, W., MARTIN, P. Dependence of Ice Melting Electrification on Earlier Freezing Rate. Nature Physical Science 233, 161 (1971) doi:10.1038/physci233161a0

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