Electric-field-induced forces between two surfaces filled with an insulating liquid: the role of adsorbed water
Department of Physics, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong
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Revised: 18 February 2014
Accepted: 11 April 2014
Published online: 10 June 2014
A systematic study of the electric-field-induced forces between a solid glass sphere and a flat gold-plated substrate filled with an insulating liquid has been carried out. Using atomic force microscopy, we measure the electrostatic force f(s, V) between the sphere and substrate as a function of the surface separation s and applied voltage V. The measured f(s, V) is found to be well described by an equation for a conducting sphere. Further force measurements for the “wet” porous glass spheres filled with an aqueous solution of urea and the dried porous glass spheres filled with (dry) air suggest that there is a water layer of a few nanometers in thickness adsorbed on the hydrophilic glass surface under ambient conditions. This adsorbed water layer is more conductive than the dielectric core of the glass sphere, making the sphere surface to be at a potential close to that of the cantilever electrode. As a result, the electric field is strongly concentrated in the gap region between the glass sphere and gold-plate substrate and thus their electrostatic attraction is enhanced. This surface conductivity effect is further supported by the thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA) and force response measurements to a time-dependent electric field. The experiment clearly demonstrates that the adsorption of a conductive water layer on a hydrophilic surface plays a dominant role in determining the electrostatic interaction between the dielectric sphere and substrate.
© EDP Sciences, 2014