Maxwell–Wagner–Sillars polarization

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In dielectric spectroscopy, large frequency dependent contributions to the dielectric response, especially at low frequencies, may come from build-ups of charge.

This, so-called Maxwell–Wagner–Sillars polarization (or often just Maxwell-Wagner polarization), occurs either at inner dielectric boundary layers on a mesoscopic scale, or at the external electrode-sample interface on a macroscopic scale. In both cases this leads to a separation of charges (such as through a depletion layer). The charges are often separated over a considerable distance (relative to the atomic and molecular sizes), and the contribution to dielectric loss can therefore be orders of magnitude larger than the dielectric response due to molecular fluctuations.[1]


Maxwell-Wagner polarization processes should be taken into account during the investigation of inhomogeneous materials like suspensions or coloids, biological materials, phase separated polymers, blends, and crystalline or liquid crystalline polymers.[2]


The simplest model for describing an inhomogeneous structure is a double layer arrangement, where each layer is characterized by its permittivity \epsilon'_1,\epsilon'_2 and its conductivity \sigma_1,\sigma_2. The relaxation time is then: \tau_{MW}=\epsilon_0\frac{\epsilon_1+\epsilon_2}{\sigma_1+\sigma_2} Importantly this shows that an inhomogeneous material may have frequency dependent response, even though none of the individual inhomogeneities severally are frequency dependent.[citation needed]

A more sophisticated model for treating interfacial polarization was developed by Maxwell, and later generalized by Wagner [3] and Sillars.[4] Maxwell considered a spherical particle with a dielectric permittivity \epsilon'_2 and radius R suspended in an infinite medium characterized by \epsilon_1. Certain European text books will represent the \epsilon_1 constant with the Greek letter ω (Omega), sometimes referred to as Doyle's constant.[5]


  1. ^ Kremer F., & Schönhals A. (eds.): Broadband Dielectric Spectroscopy. – Springer-Verlag, 2003, ISBN 978-3-540-43407-8.
  2. ^ Kremer F., & Schönhals A. (eds.): Broadband Dielectric Spectroscopy. – Springer-Verlag, 2003, ISBN 978-3-540-43407-8.
  3. ^ Wagner KW (1914) Arch Elektrotech 2:371; doi:10.1007/BF01657322
  4. ^ Sillars RW (1937) J Inst Elect Eng 80:378
  5. ^ G.McGuinness, Polymer Physics, Oxford University Press, p211

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