Excluded volume effects in macromolecular forces and ion-interface interactions

S. Buyukdagli, T. Ala-Nissilä

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A charged Yukawa liquid confined in a slit nanopore is studied in order to understand excluded volume effects in the interaction force between the pore walls. A previously developed self-consistent scheme [S. Buyukdagli, C. V. Achim, and T. Ala-Nissila, J. Stat. Mech. 2011, P05033] and a new simpler variational procedure that self-consistently couple image forces, surface charge induced electric field, and pore modified core interactions are used to this aim. For neutral pores, it is shown that with increasing pore size, the theory predicts a transition of the interplate pressure from an attractive to a strongly repulsive regime associated with an ionic packing state, an effect observed in previous Monte Carlo simulations for hard core charges. We also establish the mean-field theory of the model and show that for dielectrically homogeneous pores, the mean-field regime of the interaction between the walls corresponds to large pores of size d > 4 Å. The role of the range of core interactions in the ionic rejection and interplate pressure is thoroughly analyzed. We show that the physics of the system can be split into two screening regimes. The ionic packing effect takes place in the regime of moderately screened core interactions characterized with the bare screening parameter of the Yukawa potential b ≲ 3/ℓB, where ℓB is the Bjerrum length. In the second regime of strongly screened core interactions b ≳ 3/ℓB, solvation forces associated with these interactions positively contribute to the ionic rejection driven by electrostatic forces and enhance the magnitude of the attractive pressure. For weakly charged pores without a dielectric discontinuity, core interactions make a net repulsive contribution to the interplate force and also result in oscillatory pressure curves, whereas for intermediate surface charges, these interactions exclusively strengthen the external pressure, thereby reducing the magnitude of the net repulsive interplate force. The pronounced dependence of the interplate pressure and ionic partition coefficients on the magnitude and the range of core interactions indicates excluded volume effects as an important ion specificity and a non-negligible ingredient for the stability of macromolecules in electrolyte solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number074901
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • dielectric interfaces
  • electrostatic interactions
  • ionic liquid
  • slit nanopore


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