I Don't Mean To Alarm You All, But One Of Saturn's Moons Could Have Electric Sand

Image: iStock

Titan is a weird one. It's a moon but behaves more like a planet. It has methane seas and ice volcanoes. But it also might have electric sand.

Electric.

Sand.

You see, the sand dunes on Titan face the wrong way, and researchers think that it might be due to both the sand's physical and chemical properties - and friction - causing it to be electrified. It's called "triboelectric charging" and is mostly seen in volcano plumes and sand storms.

The researchers say that unlike Earth's, Titan's sand could be enhancing the effects of charging as it moves around. Laboratory tumbler experiments under atmospheric conditions, and using organic materials similar to this on to Titan - supported the theory.

In fact, the electostatic forces shown in the experiment were strong enough to move them around - with the researchers describing the "efficient electrification" as a possible explanation for the mismatch between dune orientations and inferred wind fields.

This is unlike any other Solar System body studied. Well done, Titan - you're the only one that is using nanometre-scale electrostatic processes to shape your geomorphological features.

That we know of.

[Nature]

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