Study Reveals How Materials Hold Charge after Two Surfaces Separate

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Researchers have discovered more details about how materials hold charge even after the separation of two surfaces, according to a study conducted on March 7, 2018.

Devices that influence such energy as a power source can be improved using results of this study. It is known that material retains the energy generated through contact electrification as electrostatic charges. For contact electrification between two organic solids, transfer of electrons is a dominant process. A research on triboelectric nanogenerators were published by the same team of researchers eight years ago. Materials that can create charge during motion are employed by this nanogenerator. They can also produce energy from sources such as wind and ocean currents. To maximize the effect, researchers had used trial and error method earlier. However, materials with better performance can be designed using the new details available.

A method to quantify the amount of charge accumulated on the surfaces during friction was developed by the researchers using a nanoscale triboelectric nanogenerator. They were able to use this method over a wide range of temperatures and it was also used for keeping track of the accumulated charges. In the triboelectric effect, temperature was found to have a major role. Zhong Lin Wang, professor said, “We never realized it was a temperature dependent phenomenon. But we found that when the temperature reaches about 300 Celsius, the triboelectric transfer almost disappears.”

Energy fluctuations of electrons become larger with increase in temperature. Therefore, electrons find it easier to hop out of the potential well and they might go back to the material or get emitted into air. This study could pave way for the development of self-powered devices with low energy.

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