Abstract The surface charge density and the ζ-potential of Thermoplasma acidophila was estimated from microscopic electrophoresis experiments. The cells moved towards the positive electrode. The mobility remained constant from pH 2 to 5, and increased for pH values higher than 6. The mobility at pH 6 decreased dramatically with increased external Ca 2+ concentration. At pH 2 and an ionic strength similar to that of the growth medium, the ζ-potential was about 8 mV, negative relative to the bulk medium; the surface charge density was 1360esu/cm -2 which corresponds to one elementary charge per 3500 A 2.