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Abstract

In this thesis, we experimentally investigate the electrostatic charging as well as the particle interactions in microscopic insulating grains. First, by tracking individual grains accelerated in an electric field, we quantitatively demonstrate that tribocharging of same-material grains depends on particle size. Large grains tend to charge positively, and small ones tend to charge negatively. Theories based on the transfer of trapped electrons can explain this tendency but have not been validated. Here we show that the number of trapped electrons, measured independently by a thermoluminescence technique, is orders of magnitude too small to be responsible for the amount of charge transferred. This result reveals that trapped electrons are not responsible for same-material tribocharging of dielectric particles. Second, same-material tribocharging in grains can result in important long-range electrostatic interactions. However, how these electrostatic interactions contribute to particle clustering remains elusive, primarily due to the lack of direct, detailed observations. Using a high-speed camera that falls with a stream charged grains, we observe for the first time how charged grains can undergo attractive as well as repulsive Kepler-like orbits. Charged particles can be captured in their mutual electrostatic potential and form clusters via multiple bounces. Dielectric polarization effects are directly observed, which lead to additional attractive forces and stabilize "molecule-like" arrangements of charged particles. Third, we have developed a new method to study the charge transfer of microscopic particles based on acoustic levitation techniques. This method allows us to narrow the complex problem of many-particle charging down to precise charge measurements of a single sub-millimeter particle colliding with a target plate. By simply attaching nonpolar groups onto glass surfaces, we show that the contact charging of a particle is highly dependent on hydrophobicity. Charging between a hydrophilic and a hydrophobic surface is enhanced in a basic atmosphere and suppressed in an acidic one. Moreover, hydrophobicity is also found to play a key role in particle charging driven by an external electric field. These results strongly support the idea that aqueous-ion transfer is responsible for the particle contact charging phenomenon.

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