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Issue 10, 2015
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Charge separation and isolation in strong water droplet impacts

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Charge separation in condensed matter after strong impacts is a general and intriguing phenomenon in nature, which is often identified and described but not necessarily well understood in terms of a quantitative mechanistic picture. Here we show that charge separation naturally occurs if water droplets/clusters or ice particles with embedded charge carriers, e.g., ions, encounter a high energy impact with subsequent dispersion – even if the involved kinetic energy is significantly below the molecular ionization energy. We find that for low charge carrier concentrations (c < 0.01 mol L−1) a simple statistical Poisson model describes the charge distribution in the resulting molecular “fragments” or aggregates. At higher concentrations Coulomb interactions between the charge carriers become relevant, which we describe by a Monte Carlo approach. Our models are compared to experimental data for strong (laser) impacts on liquid micro beams and discussed for the charge generation in cluster-impact mass spectrometry on cosmic dust detectors where particle kinetic energies are below the plasma threshold. Taken together, a simple and intuitive but quantitative microscopic model is obtained, which may contribute to the understanding of a larger range of phenomena related to charge generation and separation in nature.

Graphical abstract: Charge separation and isolation in strong water droplet impacts

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Supplementary files

Article information

03 Dec 2014
02 Feb 2015
First published
02 Feb 2015

Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2015,17, 6858-6864
Article type

Charge separation and isolation in strong water droplet impacts

F. Wiederschein, E. Vöhringer-Martinez, A. Beinsen, F. Postberg, J. Schmidt, R. Srama, F. Stolz, H. Grubmüller and B. Abel, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2015, 17, 6858
DOI: 10.1039/C4CP05618C

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