Electrostatic charging of wind-blown dust and implications on dust transport

Joseph R. Toth, Siddharth Rajupet, Henry Squire, Blaire Volbers, Jùn Zhou, Xie Li, R. Mohan Sankaran, Daniel J. Lacks

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


It is well known that electric fields occur in wind-blown dust, due to the triboelectric charging of particles as they collide. Triboelectric charging, or contact electrification, is a poorly understood and complex phenomenon. It is especially important in granular systems, as the high surface-to-volume ratio can lead to the build-up of large amounts of charge. A particularly surprising effect, which is important in dust systems, is that charge transfer occurs in systems of a single composition, such that there is a particle-size dependent polarity of the particles. Here, we use a combined experimental and theoretical approach to elucidate the electrostatic charging that occurs during dust storms, and the effects of this electrostatic charging on dust transport. We create laboratory-scale wind-blown dust systems, and study the electrostatic charging. We find that larger particles tend to charge positive and to stay at or near the sand bed, while smaller particles tend to charge negative and get lofted to higher elevations. This self-segregating of charged particles would lead to electric fields within a dust storm. Our results show that electric fields then increase the dust transport by more easily lofting charged particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number02011
JournalE3S Web of Conferences
StatePublished - Jun 18 2019
Externally publishedYes
Event2019 Central Asian DUst Conference, CADUC 2019 - Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Duration: Apr 8 2019Apr 12 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Energy(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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