Finite electric boundary-layer solutions of a generalized Poisson-Boltzmann equation

Bon M N Clarke, Peter J. Stiles*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150024
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2178
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Finite electric boundary-layer solutions of a generalized Poisson-Boltzmann equation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this