Charging of multiple interacting particles by contact electrification

Siowling Soh, Helena Liu, Rebecca Cademartiri, Hyo Jae Yoon, George M. Whitesides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Many processes involve the movement of a disordered collection of small particles (e.g., powders, grain, dust, and granular foods). These particles move chaotically, interact randomly among themselves, and gain electrical charge by contact electrification. Understanding the mechanisms of contact electrification of multiple interacting particles has been challenging, in part due to the complex movement and interactions of the particles. To examine the processes contributing to contact electrification at the level of single particles, a system was constructed in which an array of millimeter-sized polymeric beads of different materials were agitated on a dish. The dish was filled almost completely with beads, such that beads did not exchange positions. At the same time, during agitation, there was sufficient space for collisions with neighboring beads. The charge of the beads was measured individually after agitation. Results of systematic variations in the organization and composition of the interacting beads showed that three mechanisms determined the steady-state charge of the beads: (i) contact electri fication (charging of beads of diff erent materials), (ii) contact de-electrification (discharging of beads of the same charge polarity to the atmosphere), and (iii) a long-range influence across beads not in contact with one another (occurring, plausibly, by diffusion of charge from a bead with a higher charge to a bead with a lower charge of the same polarity).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13348-13354
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number38
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Sep 24
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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