Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Charge mosaics on contact-electrified dielectrics result from polarity-inverting discharges

Abstract

Charging of dielectrics on contact and separation has puzzled scientists and engineers for centuries. In a conventional view, the charges emerging on the two surfaces derive from the properties of the contacting materials, are of opposite polarities and are distributed approximately uniformly. However, a body of evidence has been mounting that contact electrification can also produce heterogeneous charge distributions in the form of (+/-) charge mosaics on each of the surfaces—yet, despite many attempts, no predictive model explaining the formation of mosaics at different length scales has been proposed; the main line of thinking has been that they must reflect some spatial heterogeneity present in the contacting materials. Here we describe experiments and theoretical models that prove a fundamentally different origin of mosaic formation: namely, not due to the properties of the contacting materials but due to electrostatic discharges between the separating surfaces. In particular, as the gap between the contact-charging surfaces grows, the threshold of the electric-field magnitude required for electrostatic discharge by Paschen’s law decreases, and eventually becomes lower than the electric field created in the gap by surface charges. Once a discharge starts, it continues not only until neutralizing but also locally inverting the surface charges. It is then the cycles of such discharges along the delamination front that give rise to the bipolar charge mosaics.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Charge mosaics on contact-charged dielectrics.
Fig. 2: Visualization of bipolar charge mosaics.
Fig. 3: Dependence of bipolar charge mosaics on the nature of gas and RH.
Fig. 4: Correlating optically observed sparks with real-time monitoring of substrate charge and with final charge density map.
Fig. 5: Basic principle of polarity inversion by ESD.
Fig. 6: Theoretical model for ESD events during detachment of contact-charged surfaces.

Data availability

All the custom computer codes used in the present work (SKP control, experiment automation, data analysis and simulations) are available via Zenodo at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6650954. Experimental data and simulation results are available via the Harvard Dataverse repository at https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/ZOFDKM.

References

  1. Harper, W. R. Contact and Frictional Electrification (Laplacian Press, 1998).

  2. Lacks, D. J. & Mohan Sankaran, R. Contact electrification of insulating materials. J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 44, 453001 (2011).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Pai, D. M. & Springett, B. E. Physics of electrophotography. Rev. Mod. Phys. 65, 163–211 (1993).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bailey, A. G. The science and technology of electrostatic powder spraying, transport and coating. J. Electrostat. 45, 85–120 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Kwetkus, B. A. Particle triboelectrification and its use in the electrostatic separation process. Part. Sci. Technol. 16, 55–68 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Varis, J. Static dissipative compounds: solutions for static control. Plast. Addit. Compd. 3, 16–19 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Gibson, N. Static electricity—an industrial hazard under control? J. Electrostat. 40–41, 21–30 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Greason, W. D. Review of the effect of electrostatic discharge and protection techniques for electronic systems. IEEE Trans. Ind. Appl. IA-23, 205–216 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Davies, D. K. Harmful effects and damage to electronics by electrostatic discharges. J. Electrostat. 16, 329–342 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Felici, N. & Larigaldie, S. Experimental study of a static discharger for aircraft with special reference to helicopters. J. Electrostat. 9, 59–70 (1980).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Fang, Y., Chen, L., Sun, Y., Yong, W. P. & Soh, S. Anomalous charging behavior of inorganic materials. J. Phys. Chem. C 122, 11414–11421 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Lacks, D. J. The unpredictability of electrostatic charging. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 51, 6822–6823 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Lacks, D. J. & Shinbrot, T. Long-standing and unresolved issues in triboelectric charging. Nat. Rev. Chem. 3, 465–476 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Liu, C. & Bard, A. J. Electrostatic electrochemistry at insulators. Nat. Mater. 7, 505–509 (2008).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Xu, C. et al. On the electron-transfer mechanism in the contact-electrification effect. Adv. Mater. 30, 1706790 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Diaz, A. F., Wollmann, D. & Dreblow, D. Contact electrification: ion transfer to metals and polymers. Chem. Mater. 3, 997–999 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. McCarty, L. S., Winkleman, A. & Whitesides, G. M. Ionic electrets: electrostatic charging of surfaces by transferring mobile ions upon contact. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 129, 4075–4088 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Salaneck, W. R., Paton, A. & Clark, D. T. Double mass transfer during polymer-polymer contacts. J. Appl. Phys. 47, 144–147 (1976).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Baytekin, H. T., Baytekin, B., Soh, S. & Grzybowski, B. A. Is water necessary for contact electrification? Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 50, 6766–6770 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Henniker, J. Triboelectricity in polymers. Nature 196, 474 (1962).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Zou, H. et al. Quantifying the triboelectric series. Nat. Commun. 10, 1427 (2019).

  22. Hull, H. H. A method for studying the distribution and sign of static charges on solid materials. J. Appl. Phys. 20, 1157–1159 (1949).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Bertein, H. Charges on insulators generated by breakdown of gas. J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 6, 1910–1916 (1973).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Shinbrot, T., Komatsu, T. S. & Zhao, Q. Spontaneous tribocharging of similar materials. Europhys. Lett. 83, 24004 (2008).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Knorr, N. Squeezing out hydrated protons: low-frictional-energy triboelectric insulator charging on a microscopic scale. AIP Adv. 1, 022119 (2011).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Burgo, T. A. L. et al. Triboelectricity: macroscopic charge patterns formed by self-arraying ions on polymer surfaces. Langmuir 28, 7407–7416 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Burgo, T. A. L., Silva, C. A., Balestrin, L. B. S. & Galembeck, F. Friction coefficient dependence on electrostatic tribocharging. Sci. Rep. 3, 2384 (2013).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Galembeck, F. et al. Friction, tribochemistry and triboelectricity: recent progress and perspectives. RSC Adv. 4, 64280–64298 (2014).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Barnes, A. M. & Dinsmore, A. D. Heterogeneity of surface potential in contact electrification under ambient conditions: a comparison of pre- and post-contact states. J. Electrostat. 81, 76–81 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Terris, B. D., Stern, J. E., Rugar, D. & Mamin, H. J. Contact electrification using force microscopy. Phys. Rev. Lett. 63, 2669–2672 (1989).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Albrecht, V. et al. Some aspects of the polymers’ electrostatic charging effects. J. Electrostat. 67, 7–11 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Burgo, T. A. L. & Erdemir, A. Bipolar tribocharging signal during friction force fluctuations at metal–insulator interfaces. Angew. Chem. 126, 12297–12301 (2014).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Baytekin, H. T. et al. The mosaic of surface charge in contact electrification. Science 333, 308–312 (2011).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Lowell, J. & Akande, A. R. Contact electrification—why is it variable? J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 21, 125–137 (1988).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Haeberle, J., Schella, A., Sperl, M., Schröter, M. & Born, P. Double origin of stochastic granular tribocharging. Soft Matter 14, 4987–4995 (2018).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Wang, A. E. et al. Dependence of triboelectric charging behavior on material microstructure. Phys. Rev. Mater. 1, 035605 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Baytekin, H. T., Baytekin, B., Incorvati, J. T. & Grzybowski, B. A. Material transfer and polarity reversal in contact charging. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 51, 4843–4847 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Sow, M. et al. Strain-induced reversal of charge transfer in contact electrification. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 51, 2695–2697 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Mizzi, C. A., Lin, A. Y. W. & Marks, L. D. Does flexoelectricity drive triboelectricity? Phys. Rev. Lett. 123, 116103 (2019).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Feshanjerdi, M. & Malekan, A. Contact electrification between randomly rough surfaces with identical materials. J. Appl. Phys. 125, 165302 (2019).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Chen, Y., Zhang, Y., He, L. & Zhang, S. L. Uniaxial strain-induced anisotropic charge transfer in contact electrification. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/1912.05966 (2019).

  42. Pandey, R. K., Kakehashi, H., Nakanishi, H. & Soh, S. Correlating material transfer and charge transfer in contact electrification. J. Phys. Chem. C 122, 16154–16160 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Grosjean, G., Wald, S., Sobarzo, J. C. & Waitukaitis, S. Quantitatively consistent scale-spanning model for same-material tribocharging. Phys. Rev. Mater. 4, 082602 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Xie, L., Bao, N., Jiang, Y. & Zhou, J. Effect of humidity on contact electrification due to collision between spherical particles. AIP Adv. 6, 035117 (2016).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Lee, V., James, N. M., Waitukaitis, S. R. & Jaeger, H. M. Collisional charging of individual submillimeter particles: using ultrasonic levitation to initiate and track charge transfer. Phys. Rev. Mater. 2, 35602 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Harris, I. A., Lim, M. X. & Jaeger, H. M. Temperature dependence of nylon and PTFE triboelectrification. Phys. Rev. Mater. 3, 085603 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Yu, H., Mu, L. & Xie, L. Numerical simulation of particle size effects on contact electrification in granular systems. J. Electrostat. 90, 113–122 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Shinbrot, T., Rutala, M. & Herrmann, H. Surface contact charging. Phys. Rev. E 96, 032912 (2017).

  49. Apodaca, M. M., Wesson, P. J., Bishop, K. J. M., Ratner, M. A. & Grzybowski, B. A. Contact electrification between identical materials. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 49, 946–949 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Siek, M., Adamkiewicz, W., Sobolev, Y. I. & Grzybowski, B. A. The influence of distant substrates on the outcome of contact electrification. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 57, 15379–15383 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Derjaguin, B. V. & Krotova, I. A. Adhesion (in Russian) (USSR Academy of Sciences, 1949).

  52. Derjaguin, B. V. & Smilga, V. P. Electronic theory of adhesion. J. Appl. Phys. 38, 4609–4616 (1967).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Derjaguin, B. V., Krotova, N. A., Karassev, V. V., Kirillova, Y. M. & Aleinikova, I. N. Electrical phenomena accompanying the formation of new surfaces, and their role in adhesion and cohesion. Prog. Surf. Sci. 45, 95–104 (1994).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Camara, C. G., Escobar, J. V., Hird, J. R. & Putterman, S. J. Correlation between nanosecond X-ray flashes and stick–slip friction in peeling tape. Nature 455, 1089–1092 (2008).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Brörmann, K., Burger, K., Jagota, A. & Bennewitz, R. Discharge during detachment of micro-structured pdms sheds light on the role of electrostatics in adhesion. J. Adhes. 88, 589–607 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Harvey, E. N. The luminescence of adhesive tape. Science 89, 460–461 (1939).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Bietsch, A. & Michel, B. Conformal contact and pattern stability of stamps used for soft lithography. J. Appl. Phys. 88, 4310–4318 (2000).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Moreira, K. S., Lermen, D., Campo, Y. A. S., Ferreira, L. O. & Burgo, T. A. L. Spontaneous mosaics of charge formed by liquid evaporation. Adv. Mater. Interfaces 7, 2000884 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Heinert, C., Sankaran, R. M. & Lacks, D. J. Microscale bipolar charge distributions on surfaces after liquid wetting and evaporation in an electric field. Langmuir 37, 8007–8013 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Budakian, R., Weninger, K., Miller, R. A. & Putterman, S. J. Picosecond discharges and stick–slip friction at a moving meniscus of mercury on glass. Nature 391, 266–268 (1998).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Ii, E. G., Barankin, M. D., Guschl, P. C. & Hicks, R. F. Surface activation of poly(methyl methacrylate) via remote atmospheric pressure plasma. Plasma Process. Polym. 7, 482–493 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Horn, R. G. & Smith, D. T. Contact electrification and adhesion between dissimilar materials. Science 256, 362–364 (1992).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Horn, R. G., Smith, D. T. & Grabbe, A. Contact electrification induced by monolayer modification of a surface and relation to acid–base interactions. Nature 366, 442–443 (1993).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Pence, S., Novotny, V. J. & Diaz, A. F. Effect of surface moisture on contact charge of polymers containing ions. Langmuir 10, 592–596 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Wiles, J. A., Fialkowski, M., Radowski, M. R., Whitesides, G. M. & Grzybowski, B. A. Effects of surface modification and moisture on the rates of charge transfer between metals and organic materials. J. Phys. Chem. B 108, 20296–20302 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Allen, K. R. & Phillips, K. Effect of humidity on the spark breakdown voltage. Nature 183, 174–175 (1959).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Kuffel, E. Influence of humidity on the breakdown voltage of sphere-gaps and uniform-field gaps. Proc. IEE Part A Power Eng. 108, 295–301 (1961).

    Google Scholar 

  68. Radmilović-Radjenović, M., Radjenović, B., Nikitović, Ž., Matejčik, Š. & Klas, M. The humidity effect on the breakdown voltage characteristics and the transport parameters of air. Nucl. Instrum. Methods Phys. Res. B Beam Interact. Mater. At. 279, 103–105 (2012).

    ADS  MATH  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank C. Cahoon for the X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy measurements; S. R. Waitukaitis for a critical peer review of the manuscript and multiple corrections to the polarity-inversion condition; E. Edel and S. Zyubin for providing full texts of rare, early twentieth-century articles. We thank the Institute for Basic Science, Korea, for generous funding under Project IBS-R020-D1.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

W.A., M.S. and Y.I.S. designed the experiments, built the experimental setups and analysed the data. W.A. performed the experiments and measurements with input from Y.I.S. Y.I.S. created the software for experiment automation, data analysis and simulations, and also developed theoretical models with input from W.A. and B.A.G. B.A.G. and Y.I.S. wrote the manuscript with input from W.A. and M.S. B.A.G. conceived and supervised the project.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bartosz A. Grzybowski.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Physics thanks Bolong Huang, Thiago Burgo and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Sections 1–10, Figs. 1–34, captions to Supplementary Videos 1–3 and refs. 1–45.

Supplementary Video 1

a–c, Recording of ESD by a high-sensitivity camera: both raw video (b) and enhanced by post-processing (c) are shown in parallel with the coulomb-meter recording (a). Spikes of coulomb-meter current accompany ESD events. d, Charge density of the PMMA film measured by SKP after the experiment. This recording corresponds to Fig. 3.

Supplementary Video 2

Video recording and real-time data from a single experiment, with reconstruction of charge mosaics’ emergence.

Supplementary Video 3

Computational model of the ESD events occurring in the course of the detachment (peeling) process. This video corresponds to Fig. 6. Flow of time in this animation is not uniform: whenever an ESD occurs, detachment progress (indicated on top) is halted and multiple iterations of the computational model are performed until the ESD is extinguished. This simulation was performed using an initial charge density of 𝜎0 = 9 nC cm−2.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Sobolev, Y.I., Adamkiewicz, W., Siek, M. et al. Charge mosaics on contact-electrified dielectrics result from polarity-inverting discharges. Nat. Phys. (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-022-01714-9

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-022-01714-9

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing