Contact Potentials, Fermi Level Equilibration, and Surface Charging

Pekka Peljo*, José A. Manzanares, Hubert H. Girault

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


This article focuses on contact electrification from thermodynamic equilibration of the electrochemical potential of the electrons of two conductors upon contact. The contact potential difference generated in bimetallic macro- and nanosystems, the Fermi level after the contact, and the amount and location of the charge transferred from one metal to the other are discussed. The three geometries considered are spheres in contact, Janus particles, and core-shell particles. In addition, the force between the two spheres in contact with each other is calculated and is found to be attractive. A simple electrostatic model for calculating charge distribution and potential profiles in both vacuum and an aqueous electrolyte solution is described. Immersion of these bimetallic systems into an electrolyte solution leads to the formation of an electric double layer at the metal-electrolyte interface. This Fermi level equilibration and the associated charge transfer can at least partly explain experimentally observed different electrocatalytic, catalytic, and optical properties of multimetallic nanosystems in comparison to systems composed of pure metals. For example, the shifts in the surface plasmon resonance peaks in bimetallic core-shell particles seem to result at least partly from contact charging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5765-5775
Number of pages11
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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