Planar screening by charge polydisperse counterions

M. Trulsson 1, 2 E. Trizac 1 L. Samaj 3

Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, IOP Publishing, 2018, 30 (3), 〈10.1088/1361-648X/aa9a79〉

We study how a neutralising cloud of counterions screens the electric field of a uniformly charged planar membrane plate, when the counterions are characterised by a distribution of charges (or valence), $n(q)$. We work out analytically the one-plate and two-plate cases, at the level of non-linear Poisson-Boltzmann theory. The (essentially asymptotic) predictions are successfully compared to numerical solutions of the full Poisson-Boltzmann theory, but also to Monte Carlo simulations. The counterions with smallest valence control the long-distance features of interactions, and may qualitatively change the results pertaining to the classic monodisperse case where all counterions have the same charge. Emphasis is put on continuous distributions $n(q)$, for which new power-laws can be evidenced, be it for the ionic density or the pressure, in the one- and two-plates situations respectively. We show that for discrete distributions, more relevant for experiments, these scaling laws persist in an intermediate but yet observable range. Furthermore, it appears that from a practical point of view, hallmarks of the continuous $n(q)$ behaviour is already featured by discrete mixtures with a relatively small number of constituents.

  • 1. LPTMS - Laboratoire de Physique Théorique et Modèles Statistiques
  • 2. Lund University [Lund]
  • 3. Institute of Physics