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Why Does Wood Not Get Contact Charged? Lignin as an Antistatic Additive for Common Polymers

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journal contribution
posted on 28.08.2020, 15:04 by Mertcan Özel, Fatma Demir, Aizimaiti Aikebaier, Joanna Kwiczak-Yiğitbaşı, H. Tarik Baytekin, Bilge Baytekin
Contact electrification (CE), or the development of surface charges upon contact and separation, is a millennia-old scientific mystery and the source of many problems in the industry. Since the 18th century, efforts to understand CE have involved ranking materials according to their charging propensities. In all these reports, wood, an insulator, turns out to be surprisingly immune to CE. Here, we show that this unique antistatic nature of wood is attributable to its lignin content, i.e., lignin removal from wood ceases the antistatic property, and (re)­addition brings it back. The antistatic action of lignin (also an insulator) is proposed to be related to its radical scavenging action and can be explained through the bond-breaking mechanism of CE. Our results also show that lignin, a sustainable, low-cost biopolymer, can be used as an antistatic additive in some representative examples of elastomers and thermoplastics, displaying the universal nature of its antistatic action.