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Effects of Self Energy of the Ions on the Double Layer Structure and Properties at the Dielectric Interface


Wang, Rui (2015) Effects of Self Energy of the Ions on the Double Layer Structure and Properties at the Dielectric Interface. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9DN431P.


Although numerous theoretical efforts have been put forth, a systematic, unified and predictive theoretical framework that is able to capture all the essential physics of the interfacial behaviors of ions, such as the Hofmeister series effect, Jones-Ray effect and the salt effect on the bubble coalescence remain an outstanding challenge. The most common approach to treating electrostatic interactions in the presence of salt ions is the Poisson-Boltzmann (PB) theory. However, there are many systems for which the PB theory fails to offer even a qualitative explanation of the behavior, especially for ions distributed in the vicinity of an interface with dielectric contrast between the two media (like the water-vapor/oil interface). A key factor missing in the PB theory is the self energy of the ion.

In this thesis, we develop a self-consistent theory that treats the electrostatic self energy (including both the short-range Born solvation energy and the long-range image charge interactions), the nonelectrostatic contribution of the self energy, the ion-ion correlation and the screening effect systematically in a single framework. By assuming a finite charge spread of the ion instead of using the point-charge model, the self energy obtained by our theory is free of the divergence problems and gives a continuous self energy across the interface. This continuous feature allows ions on the water side and the vapor/oil side of the interface to be treated in a unified framework. The theory involves a minimum set of parameters of the ion, such as the valency, radius, polarizability of the ions, and the dielectric constants of the medium, that are both intrinsic and readily available. The general theory is first applied to study the thermodynamic property of the bulk electrolyte solution, which shows good agreement with the experiment result for predicting the activity coefficient and osmotic coefficient.

Next, we address the effect of local Born solvation energy on the bulk thermodynamics and interfacial properties of electrolyte solution mixtures. We show that difference in the solvation energy between the cations and anions naturally gives rise to local charge separation near the interface, and a finite Galvani potential between two coexisting solutions. The miscibility of the mixture can either increases or decreases depending on the competition between the solvation energy and translation entropy of the ions. The interfacial tension shows a non-monotonic dependence on the salt concentration: it increases linearly with the salt concentration at higher concentrations, and decreases approximately as the square root of the salt concentration for dilute solutions, which is in agreement with the Jones-Ray effect observed in experiment.

Next, we investigate the image effects on the double layer structure and interfacial properties near a single charged plate. We show that the image charge repulsion creates a depletion boundary layer that cannot be captured by a regular perturbation approach. The correct weak-coupling theory must include the self-energy of the ion due to the image charge interaction. The image force qualitatively alters the double layer structure and properties, and gives rise to many non-PB effects, such as nonmonotonic dependence of the surface energy on concentration and charge inversion. The image charge effect is then studied for electrolyte solutions between two plates. For two neutral plates, we show that depletion of the salt ions by the image charge repulsion results in short-range attractive and long-range repulsive forces. If cations and anions are of different valency, the asymmetric depletion leads to the formation of an induced electrical double layer. For two charged plates, the competition between the surface charge and the image charge effect can give rise to like- charge attraction.

Then, we study the inhomogeneous screening effect near the dielectric interface due to the anisotropic and nonuniform ion distribution. We show that the double layer structure and interfacial properties is drastically affected by the inhomogeneous screening if the bulk Debye screening length is comparable or smaller than the Bjerrum length. The width of the depletion layer is characterized by the Bjerrum length, independent of the salt concentration. We predict that the negative adsorption of ions at the interface increases linearly with the salt concentration, which cannot be captured by either the bulk screening approximation or the WKB approximation. For asymmetric salt, the inhomogeneous screening enhances the charge separation in the induced double layer and significantly increases the value of the surface potential.

Finally, to account for the ion specificity, we study the self energy of a single ion across the dielectric interface. The ion is considered to be polarizable: its charge distribution can be self-adjusted to the local dielectric environment to minimize the self energy. Using intrinsic parameters of the ions, such as the valency, radius, and polarizability, we predict the specific ion effect on the interfacial affinity of halogen anions at the water/air interface, and the strong adsorption of hydrophobic ions at the water/oil interface, in agreement with experiments and atomistic simulations.

The theory developed in this work represents the most systematic theoretical technique for weak-coupling electrolytes. We expect the theory to be more useful for studying a wide range of structural and dynamic properties in physicochemical, colloidal, soft-matter and biophysical systems.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Double layer theory, specific ion effect, image charge effect, surface tension
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemical Engineering
Awards:Constantin G. Economou Memorial Prize, 2010
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Wang, Zhen-Gang
Thesis Committee:
  • Wang, Zhen-Gang (chair)
  • Brady, John F.
  • Miller, Thomas F.
  • Marcus, Rudolph A.
  • Tirrell, David A.
Defense Date:27 October 2014
Non-Caltech Author Email:wangrui_hz_1981 (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:12102014-125310289
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for ch. 2 and ch. 5 adapted for ch. 3 adapted for ch. 7
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8738
Deposited By: Rui Wang
Deposited On:12 Dec 2014 17:32
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:07

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