Imagine, we can put the amount of electric charges on a drop of water. How can we measure the maximum electric charges on that? I need a mathematical relation. I know, we can imagine the drop as an isolated spherical capacitor, but I think it is not testable or veritable. I will be thankful if someone could guide me.

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    $\begingroup$ There is Coulomb explosion when the charge on molecules or clusters is larger than the cohesive forces. So it depends on the bonding: from chemical in a molecule (C$_{60}$ has been studied) to weak Vanderwaals in clusters of noble gas atoms. $\endgroup$ – Pieter Jul 13 '18 at 7:50

The maximum charge on a stable liquid drop was first calculated by Rayleigh in: "On the equilibrium of liquid conducting masses charged with electricity," Philos. Mag. 14 184 (1882). The calculation assumes the drop is incompressible, and has a surface tension $\gamma$. Rayleigh writes the distortions from a spherical shape in terms of a series of essentially spherical harmonics, and works out the electrostatic energy, surface energy and volume constraint. This energy is minimized by a spherical shape for charge $$ Q < \sqrt{64 \pi^2 \gamma a_0^3 \epsilon_0}$$ in SI units, where $a_0$ is the radius of the uncharged spherical drop. For charges greater than this, the $\ell =2$ quadrupole distortions become unstable.

  • $\begingroup$ Expert answer. Is this result confirmed experimentally or superseded by more recent developments? $\endgroup$ – my2cts Jul 13 '18 at 10:20
  • $\begingroup$ @my2cts -- Nuclear fission! But the fragments are remarkably asymmetric. See physics.stackexchange.com/questions/396641/… $\endgroup$ – Bert Barrois Jul 13 '18 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ @user200143: Thank you very much. How can we determine gamma for different materials? $\endgroup$ – Somayeh. H Jul 13 '18 at 18:34

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