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Electrostatic Jumping of Frost

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posted on 17.02.2021, 20:04 by Ranit Mukherjee, S. Farzad Ahmadi, Hongwei Zhang, Rui Qiao, Jonathan B. Boreyko
The electrification of ice has been a subject of research since 1940, mostly in the context of charge generation in thunderstorms. This generation of electric charge is spontaneous, distinct from applying an external electric field to affect the diffusive growth of ice crystals. Here, we exploit the spontaneous electrification of ice to reveal a surprising phenomenon of jumping frost dendrites. We use side-view high-speed imaging to experimentally observe frost dendrites breaking off from mother dendrites and/or the substrate to jump out-of-plane toward an opposing polar liquid. Analytical and numerical models are then developed to estimate the attractive force between the frost dendrites and liquid, in good agreement with the experimental results. These models estimate the extent of charge separation within a growing sheet of frost, which is caused by mismatches in the mobilities of the charge carriers in ice. Our findings show that the unexpected jumping frost event can serve as a model system for resolving long-standing questions in atmospheric physics regarding charge separation in ice, while also having potential as a deicing construct.