We solve the nonlinear Poisson-Boltzmann (P-B) equation of statistical thermodynamics for the external electrostatic potential of a uniformly charged flat plate immersed in an unbounded strong aqueous electrolyte. Our rather general variational formulation yields new solutions for the external potential derived from both the classical Boltzmann distribution and its heuristic Eigen-Wicke modification for concentrated symmetric electrolytes. Electrostatic potentials of these mean-field solutions satisfy a homogeneous condition at a free boundary plane parallel to the electrically conducting plate. The preferred position of this plane, characterizing the outer limit of the charged electrolyte, is determined by minimizing electrostatic free energy of the electrolyte. For a given uniform density of surface charge exceeding a well-defined and experimentally accessible threshold, we show that the generalized nonlinear P-B equation predicts a unique sharp interface separating a charged boundary layer or double layer from electroneutral bulk electrolyte. Sharp electric boundary layers are shown to be an essentially nonlinear phenomenon. In the super-threshold regime, the diffuse Gouy-Chapman solution is inapplicable and thus the Derjaguin-Landau-Verwey-Overbeek analysis, predicting electrostatic repulsion between two sufficiently separated and identically charged parallel plates must be rejected. Similar limitations restrict the applicability of the Grahame equation relating surface charge density to surface potential.
|Number of pages||16|
|Journal||Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 8 Jun 2015|