, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 2–17 | Cite as

Fundamental theories and basic principles of triboelectric effect: A review

  • Shuaihang Pan
  • Zhinan ZhangEmail author
Open Access
Review Article


Long-term observation of the triboelectric effect has not only proved the feasibility of many novel and useful tribo-devices (e.g., triboelectric nanogenerators), but also constantly motivated the exploration of its mysterious nature. In the pursuit of a comprehensive understanding of how the triboelectric process works, a more accurate description of the triboelectric effect and its related parameters and factors is urgently required. This review critically goes through the fundamental theories and basic principles governing the triboelectric process. By investigating the difference between each charging media, the electron, ion, and material transfer is discussed and the theoretical deduction in the past decades is provided. With the information from the triboelectric series, interesting phenomena including cyclic triboelectric sequence and asymmetric triboelectrification are precisely analyzed. Then, the interaction between the tribo-system and its operational environment is analyzed, and a fundamental description of its effects on the triboelectric process and results is summarized. In brief, this review is expected to provide a strong understanding of the triboelectric effect in a more rigorous mathematical and physical sense.


triboelectric effect triboelectrification triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) interface 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51575340), State Key Laboratory of Solid Lubrication (No. LSL-1604) and the Shanghai Academy of Space Technology-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Research Center of Advanced Aerospace Technology (USCAST2016-13). The authors gratefully acknowledge Tianlu Wang (PhD, ETH Zurich), Peng Zhang (PhD, UCLA), and Ning Yu (PhD, UCLA) for their useful comments and proofreading.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Mechanical EngineeringShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.School of Mechanical & Aerospace EngineeringUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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