Volume 83, Number 2, July 2008
Article Number 24004
Number of page(s) 6
Section Electromagnetism, Optics, Acoustics, Heat Transfer, Classical Mechanics, and Fluid Dynamics
Published online 09 July 2008
EPL, 83 (2008) 24004
DOI: 10.1209/0295-5075/83/24004

Spontaneous tribocharging of similar materials

T. Shinbrot1, 2, T. S. Komatsu3 and Q. Zhao4

1  Department of Biomedical Engineering, Rutgers University - Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA
2  Institut für Baustoffe, ETH-Zürich - Schafmattstrasse 6, CH-8093 Zürich, Switzerland
3  Department of Physics, Gakushuin University - Mejiro 1-5-1, Tokyo, 171-8588, Japan
4  Department of Chemical Engineering, Princeton University - Princeton, NJ, USA

received 11 March 2008; accepted in final form 6 June 2008; published July 2008
published online 9 July 2008

We investigate the spontaneous triboelectrification of similar materials. This effect, first reported in 1927, has been little studied but is easily reproduced. We find in two separate experimental systems, where materials are prepared in the same way and rubbed symmetrically, that symmetry breaking occurs so that one material becomes positive and the other negative. Curiously, the distribution of charges on the materials appears to be self-similar, with different charge patterns on the positive and the negative surface. We propose a mechanism in which an initial localized charge may spawn the production of smaller localized charges of the same polarity.

45.70.Mg - Granular flow: mixing, segregation and stratification.
05.45.Df - Fractals. - Surface energy.

© EPLA 2008