Electrostatics in wind-blown sand

Phys Rev Lett. 2008 Jan 11;100(1):014501. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.100.014501. Epub 2008 Jan 8.


Wind-blown sand, or "saltation," is an important geological process, and the primary source of atmospheric mineral dust aerosols. Significant discrepancies exist between classical saltation theory and measurements. We show here that these discrepancies can be resolved by the inclusion of sand electrification in a physically based saltation model. Indeed, we find that electric forces enhance the concentration of saltating particles and cause them to travel closer to the surface, in agreement with measurements. Our results thus indicate that sand electrification plays an important role in saltation.