Triboelectricity in insulating polymers: evidence for a mechanochemical mechanism
Transfer of reaction products formed on the surfaces of two mutually rubbed dielectric solids makes an important if not dominating contribution to triboelectricity. New evidence in support of this statement is presented in this report, based on analytical electron microscopy coupled to electrostatic potential mapping techniques. Mechanical action on contacting surface asperities transforms them into hot-spots for free-radical formation, followed by electron transfer producing cationic and anionic polymer fragments, according to their electronegativity. Polymer ions accumulate creating domains with excess charge because they are formed at fracture surfaces of pulled-out asperities. Another factor for charge segregation is the low polymer mixing entropy, following Flory and Huggins. The formation of fractal charge patterns that was previously described is thus the result of polymer fragment fractal scatter on both contacting surfaces. The present results contribute to the explanation of the centuries-old difficulties for understanding the “triboelectric series” and triboelectricity in general, as well as the dissipative nature of friction, and they may lead to better control of friction and its consequences.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Mechanochemistry: From Functional Solids to Single Molecules