Electrostatic correlations in inhomogeneous charged fluids beyond loop expansion

S. Buyukdagli, C. Achim, T. Ala-Nissilä

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24 Citations (Scopus)
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Electrostatic correlation effects in inhomogeneous symmetric electrolytes are investigated within a previously developed electrostatic self-consistent theory [R. R. Netz and H. Orland, Eur. Phys. J. E 11, 301 (2003)]10.1140/epje/i2002-10159-0. To this aim, we introduce two computational approaches that allow to solve the self-consistent equations beyond the loop expansion. The first method is based on a perturbative Green's function technique, and the second one is an extension of a previously introduced semiclassical approximation for single dielectric interfaces to the case of slit nanopores. Both approaches can handle the case of dielectrically discontinuous boundaries where the one-loop theory is known to fail. By comparing the theoretical results obtained from these schemes with the results of the Monte Carlo simulations that we ran for ions at neutral single dielectric interfaces, we first show that the weak coupling Debye-Huckel theory remains quantitatively accurate up to the bulk ion density ρb ≃ 0.01 M, whereas the self-consistent theory exhibits a good quantitative accuracy up to ρb ≃ 0.2 M, thus improving the accuracy of the Debye-Huckel theory by one order of magnitude in ionic strength. Furthermore, we compare the predictions of the self-consistent theory with previous Monte Carlo simulation data for charged dielectric interfaces and show that the proposed approaches can also accurately handle the correlation effects induced by the surface charge in a parameter regime where the mean-field result significantly deviates from the Monte Carlo data. Then, we derive from the perturbative self-consistent scheme the one-loop theory of asymmetrically partitioned salt systems around a dielectrically homogeneous charged surface. It is shown that correlation effects originate in these systems from a competition between the salt screening loss at the interface driving the ions to the bulk region, and the interfacial counterion screening excess attracting them towards the surface. This competition can be quantified in terms of the characteristic surface charge σ*s=√2ρb/(πℓB), where ℓB = 7 Å is the Bjerrum length. In the case of weak surface charges σs≪σ*s where counterions form a diffuse layer, the interfacial salt screening loss is the dominant effect. As a result, correlation effects decrease the mean-field density of both coions and counterions. With an increase of the surface charge towards σ*s, the surface-attractive counterion screening excess starts to dominate, and correlation effects amplify in this regime the mean-field density of both type of ions. However, in the regime σs>σ*s, the same counterion screening excess also results in a significant decrease of the electrostatic mean-field potential. This reduces in turn the mean-field counterion density far from the charged surface. We also show that for σs≫σ*s, electrostatic correlations result in a charge inversion effect. However, the electrostatic coupling regime where this phenomenon takes place should be verified with Monte Carlo simulations since this parameter regime is located beyond the validity range of the one-loop theory.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104902
Pages (from-to)1-18
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2012
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Electrostatic correlations
  • Loop expansion
  • Surface polarization

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