Beyond the Continuum: How Molecular Solvent Structure Affects Electrostatics and Hydrodynamics at Solid-Electrolyte Interfaces

Douwe Jan Bonthuis*, Roland R. Netz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Standard continuum theory fails to predict several key experimental results of electrostatic and electrokinetic measurements at aqueous electrolyte interfaces. In order to extend the continuum theory to include the effects of molecular solvent structure, we generalize the equations for electrokinetic transport to incorporate a space dependent dielectric profile, viscosity profile, and non-electrostatic interaction potential. All necessary profiles are extracted from atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. We show that the MD results for the ion-specific distribution of counterions at charged hydrophilic and hydrophobic interfaces are accurately reproduced using the dielectric profile of pure water and a non-electrostatic repulsion in an extended Poisson–Boltzmann equation. The distributions of Na+ at both surface types and Cl– at hydrophilic surfaces can be modeled using linear dielectric response theory, whereas for Cl– at hydrophobic surfaces it is necessary to apply nonlinear response theory. The extended Poisson–Boltzmann equation reproduces the experimental values of the double-layer capacitance for many different carbon-based surfaces. In conjunction with a generalized hydrodynamic theory that accounts for a space dependent viscosity, the model captures the experimentally observed saturation of the electrokinetic mobility as a function of the bare surface charge density and the so-called anomalous double-layer conductivity. The two-scale approach employed here—MD simulations and continuum theory—constitutes a successful modeling scheme, providing basic insight into the molecular origins of the static and kinetic properties of charged surfaces, and allowing quantitative modeling at low computational cost.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11397-11413
JournalThe Journal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Beyond the Continuum: How Molecular Solvent Structure Affects Electrostatics and Hydrodynamics at Solid-Electrolyte Interfaces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this