Detection of charge distributions in insulator surfaces

C. A. Rezende, R. F. Gouveia, M. A. Da Silva, F. Galembeck

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

99 Citations (SciVal)


Charge distribution in insulators has received considerable attention but still poses great scientific challenges, largely due to a current lack of firm knowledge about the nature and speciation of charges. Recent studies using analytical microscopies have shown that insulators contain domains with excess fixed ions forming various kinds of potential distribution patterns, which are also imaged by potential mapping using scanning electric probe microscopy. Results from the authors' laboratory show that solid insulators are seldom electroneutral, as opposed to a widespread current assumption. Excess charges can derive from a host of charging mechanisms: excess local ion concentration, radiochemical and tribochemical reactions added to the partition of hydroxonium and hydronium ions derived from atmospheric water. The last factor has been largely overlooked in the literature, but recent experimental evidence suggests that it plays a decisive role in insulator charging. Progress along this line is expected to help solve problems related to unwanted electrostatic discharges, while creating new possibilities for energy storage and handling as well as new electrostatic devices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number263002
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Physics Condensed Matter
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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