Discrete Electrostatic Charge Transfer by the Electrophoresis of a Charged Droplet in a Dielectric Liquid

We have experimentally investigated the electrostatic charging of a water droplet on an electrified electrode surface to explain the detailed inductive charging processes and use them for the detection of droplet position in a lab-on-a-chip system. The periodic bouncing motion of a droplet between two planar electrodes has been examined by using a high-resolution electrometer and an image analysis method. We have found that this charging process consists of three steps. The first step is inductive charge accumulation on the opposite electrode by the charge of a droplet. This induction process occurs while the droplet approaches the electrode, and it produces an induction current signal at the electrometer. The second step is the discharging of the droplet by the accumulated induced charge at the moment of contact. For this second step, there is no charge-transfer detection at the electrometer. The third step is the charging of the neutralized droplet to a certain charged state while the droplet is in contact with the electrode. The charge transfer of the third step is detected as the pulse-type signal of an electrometer. The second and third steps occur simultaneously and rapidly. We have found that the induction current by the movement of a charged droplet can be accurately used to measure the charge of the droplet and can also be used to monitor the position of a droplet under actuation. The implications of the current findings for understanding and measuring the charging process are discussed.