Contact De-electrification of Electrostatically Charged Polymers
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CitationSoh, Siowling, Sen Wai Kwok, Helena Liu, and George M. Whitesides. 2012. Contact De-Electrification of Electrostatically Charged Polymers. Journal of the American Chemical Society 134, no. 49: 20151–20159.
AbstractThe contact electrification of insulating organic polymers is still incompletely understood, in part because multiple fundamental mechanisms may contribute to the movement of charge. This study describes a mechanism previously unreported in the context of contact electrification: that is, “contact de-electrification”, a process in which polymers charged to the same polarity discharge on contact. Both positively charged polymeric beads, e.g., polyamide 6/6 (Nylon) and polyoxymethylene (Delrin), and negatively charged polymeric beads, e.g., polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) and polyamide-imide (Torlon), discharge when the like-charged beads are brought into contact. The beads (both with charges of ±20 μC/m2, or 100 charges/μm2) discharge on contact regardless of whether they are made of the same material, or of different materials. Discharge is rapid: discharge of flat slabs of like-charged Nylon and Teflon pieces is completed on a single contact (3 s). The charge lost from the polymers during contact de-electrification transfers onto molecules of gas in the atmosphere. When like-charged polymers are brought into contact, the increase in electric field at the point of contact exceeds the dielectric breakdown strength of the atmosphere and ionizes molecules of the gas; this ionization thus leads to discharge of the polymers. The detection (using a Faraday cup) of charges transferred to the cup by the ionized gas is compatible with the mechanism. Contact de-electrification occurs for different polymers and in atmospheres with different values of dielectric breakdown strength (helium, argon, oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and sulfur hexafluoride): the mechanism thus appears to be general.
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