Electrostatic phenomena have long been associated with the explosive eruption of volcanoes. Lightning generated in volcanic plumes is a spectacular atmospheric electrical event that requires development of large potential gradients over distances of up to kilometres. This process begins as hydrated liquid rock (magma) ascends towards Earth's surface. Pressure reduction causes water supersaturation in the magma and the development of bubbles of supercritical water, where deeper than c. 1000 m, and water vapour at shallower depths that drives flow expansion. The generation of high strain rates in the expanding bubbly magma can cause it to fracture in a brittle manner, as deformation relaxation timescales are exceeded. The brittle fracture provides the initial charge separation mechanism, known as fractoemission . The resulting mixture of charged silicate particles and ions evolves over time, generating macro-scale potential gradients in the atmosphere and driving processes such as particle aggregation. For the silicate particles, aggregation driven by electrostatic effects is most significant for particles smaller than c. 100 μm. Aggregation acts to change the effective aerodynamic behaviour of silicate particles , thus altering the sedimentation rates of particles from volcanic plumes from the atmosphere. The presence of liquid phases also promotes aggregation processes  and lightning.