On the Electron-Transfer Mechanism in the Contact-Electrification Effect

Adv Mater. 2018 Apr;30(15):e1706790. doi: 10.1002/adma.201706790. Epub 2018 Mar 6.


A long debate on the charge identity and the associated mechanisms occurring in contact-electrification (CE) (or triboelectrification) has persisted for many decades, while a conclusive model has not yet been reached for explaining this phenomenon known for more than 2600 years! Here, a new method is reported to quantitatively investigate real-time charge transfer in CE via triboelectric nanogenerator as a function of temperature, which reveals that electron transfer is the dominant process for CE between two inorganic solids. A study on the surface charge density evolution with time at various high temperatures is consistent with the electron thermionic emission theory for triboelectric pairs composed of Ti-SiO2 and Ti-Al2 O3 . Moreover, it is found that a potential barrier exists at the surface that prevents the charges generated by CE from flowing back to the solid where they are escaping from the surface after the contacting. This pinpoints the main reason why the charges generated in CE are readily retained by the material as electrostatic charges for hours at room temperature. Furthermore, an electron-cloud-potential-well model is proposed based on the electron-emission-dominatedcharge-transfer mechanism, which can be generally applied to explain all types of CE in conventional materials.

Keywords: charge identity; contact electrification; nanogenerators; thermionic emission; triboelectrification.