Slide electrification: charging of surfaces by moving water drops
We investigate the charge separation caused by the motion of a water drop across a hydrophobic, insulating solid surface. Although the phenomenon of liquid charging has been consistently reported, these reports are primarily observational, results are difficult to reproduce, and no quantitative theory has been developed. In this work, we address both the experimental and theoretical sides of this problem. We reproducibly measure the charge gained by water drops sliding down a substrate, and we outline an analytical theory to describe this charging process. As an experimental system, we choose water drops moving down an inclined plane of glass hydrophobized with perfluoro octadecyltrichlorosilane (PFOTS). On this surface, sliding drops gain a positive charge. We observe charge saturation in three variables: increasing drop number, increasing interval between drops, and increasing drop-sliding length. These charge saturations indicate a limited “storage capacity” of the system, as well as a gradual discharging of the surface. To explain these results, we theorize that some fraction of the charge in the Debye layer is transferred to the surface rather than being neutralized as the drop passes. This fraction, or “transfer coefficient”, is dependent on the electric potentials of surface and drop. All of our experimental charge saturation results can be interpreted based on the proposed theory. Given that nearly every surface in our lives comes in contact with water, this water-dependent surface charging may be a ubiquitous process that we can begin to understand through the proposed theory.