Surface Contamination and Contact Electrification

  • K. P. Homewood


When two materials are touched together and then separated, we find, in general, that charge has transferred between them. This phenomenon is known as contact electrification or contact charging. It is most apparent when one or both of the contacting materials is an insulator, because of the ability of an insulator to retain charge. Contact charging is one of the oldest studied phenomena in physics but is still incompletely understood. Despite this, considerable use is made of these effects in industrial processes. It is the basis of xerography, electrostatic precipitators, electrostatic paint and crop spraying, and ink jet printing and is made use of in a wide variety of other applications. Contact charging can also be a considerable nuisance, causing irritating electric shocks in the home and office environment. Many semiconductor devices are highly susceptible to damage from acquired static charges. The buildup of static charges and their subsequent discharge can be extremely hazardous in flammable and explosive environments.


Work Function Contact Electrification Static Electrification Metal Cone Metal Sphere 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    J. Lowell and A. C. Rose-Innes, Contact electrification, Adv. Phys.29(6), 947–1023 (1980).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Proceedings of Conferences on Static Electrification, Institute of Physics Conference Series, No. 11 (1971), No. 27 (1975), No. 48 (1979), No. 66 (1983).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Electrostatics, The Hague (1981), J. Electrostat.10(1981).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Electrostatics, Uppsala (1985), J. Electrostat. 16 (1985).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    K. P. Homewood, An experimental investigation of the depth of penetration of charge into insulators contacted by a metal, J. Phys. D 17, 1255–1263 (1984).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    W. R. Harper, Contact and Frictional Electrification, Oxford University Press, Oxford (1967).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    H. Bauser, W. Klopffer, and H. Rabenhorst, On the charging mechanism of insulating solids, Adv. Static Elec. 1, 2–9 (1970).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    G. A. Cottrell, C. Reed, and A. C. Rose-Innes, Contact electrification of ideal insulators: Experiments on solid rare gases, in: Static Electrification, Institute of Physics Conference Series, No. 48, 249–256 (1976).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    J. Lowell, Surface states and contact electrification of polymers, J. Phys. D. 10, 65–71 (1977).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    K. P. Homewood, Do ‘Dirty’ surfaces matter in contact electrification experiments? J. Electrostat. 10, 299–304 (1981).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    K. P. Homewood, An experimental investigation of the contact electrification of insulators by metals, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Manchester, England (1981).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    P. S. H. Henry, Generation of static on solid insulators, J. Text. Inst. 48, 5–25 (1957).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    E. S. Robins, A. C. Rose-Innes, and J. Lowell, Are adsorbed ions involved in the contact charging between metals and insulators?, in: Static Electrification, Institute of Physics Conference Series, No. 27, 115–121 (1975).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    E. S. Robins, J. Lowell, and A. C. Rose-Innes, The role of surface ions in the contact electrification of insulators, J. Electrostat. 8, 153–160(1980).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    M. I. Kornfeld, Nature of frictional electrification, Soviet Phys. Solid State 11, 1306–1310 (1969).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    M. I. Kornfeld, Frictional electrification, J. Phys. D 9, 1183–1192 (1976).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    T. Horvath and I. Berta, The effective location of eliminators in the electric field of moving sheet materials at conducting rollers, in: Proceedings of the International Conference on Static Electricity, Grenoble (1977), p. 32(a).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    T. Horvath and I. Berta, Mathematical simulation of electrostatic hazards, in: Static Electrification, Institute of Physics Conference Series, No. 27, 256–263 (1975).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    J. F. Hughes, A. M. K. Au, and A. R. Blythe, Electrical charging and discharging between films and metal rollers, in: Static Electrification, Institute of Physics Conference Series, No. 48, 37–44 (1979).Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    J. S. Forrest, Methods of increasing the electrical conductivity of surfaces, Br. J. Appl. Phys. 4, Suppl. 2, S37–39 (1957).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Y. Awakuni and J. H. Calderwood, Water vapour adsorption and surface conductivity in solids, J. Phys. D 5, 1038–1045 (1972).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    G. W. Brundrett, A review of the factors influencing electrostatic shocks in offices, J. Electrostat. 2, 295–315 (1976/1977).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    S. P. Hersh, Review of electrostatic phenomena on textile materials, Dechema Monographs 72, 199–216 (1974).Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    J. E. McIntyre, Antistatic fibers, Rep. Prog. Appl. Chem. 59, 99–108 (1974).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    E. L. Zichy, Antistatics for plastics, Dechema Monographs 72, 147–161 (1974).Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    A. R. Blythe, Device for controlling static charge levels on film, in: Static Electrification, Institute of Physics Conference Series, No. 27, 238–245 (1975).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    J. Boyd and D. Bulgin, The reduction of static electrification by incorporating viscose rayon containing carbon, J. Text. Inst. 48, 66–99 (1957).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    D. A. Hays, The effect of oxidation and an electric field on the contact electrification of polyethylene by mercury, Dechema Monographs 72, 95–103 (1974).Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    D. A. Hays, Contact electrification between mercury and polyethylene: Effect of surface oxidation, J. Chem. Phys. 61, 1455–1462 (1974).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    M. Selders, F. K. Dolezalek, O. Frenzl, and H. Rabenhorst, Contact electrification of corona treated polyethylenes, J. Electrostat. 10, 315–320 (1981).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    H. Bauser, Static electrification of organic solids, Dechema Monographs 72, 11–28 (1974).Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    D. K. Davies, The generation and dissipation of static charge on dielectrics in a vacuum, in: Static Electrification, Institute of Physics Conference Series, No. 4, 29–36 (1967).Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    W. R. Salanek, A. Paton, and D. T. Clark, Double mass transfer during polymer-polymer contacts, J. Appl. Phys. 47, 144–147 (1976).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    J. Lowell, The role of material transfer in contact electrification, J. Phys. D 10, L233–235, (1977).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    D. Briggs, The role of modern surface analysis techniques in understanding electrification phenomena, in: Static Electrification, Institute of Physics Conference Series, No. 48, 201–213 (1979).Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    J. M. Chen, Mechanism of work function reduction by oxygen adsorption, J. Appl. Phys. 41, 5008–5011 (1971).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. P. Homewood
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Joint Laboratory of Physics and Electrical EngineeringUniversity of Manchester Institute of Science and TechnologyManchester 1UK
  2. 2.Department of Electronic and Electrical EngineeringUniversity of SurreyGuildford, SurreyUK

Personalised recommendations