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Published December 7, 2019 | Published
Journal Article Open

On the origin of oscillatory interactions between surfaces mediated by polyelectrolyte solution


We use a numerical implementation of polymer classical density functional theory with an incompressibility condition to study the system consisting of nonadsorbing polyelectrolytes confined by two planar surfaces and quantify the effective interaction between the two planar surfaces as a function of the polyelectrolyte and salt concentrations. Our results indicate that for the uncharged surfaces (and weakly charged surfaces), the effective interaction primarily consists of a short-range attraction due to the depletion followed by repulsion due to the electric double layer overlapping and electrostatic correlations. For salt-free and low salt concentration systems, the magnitude of the repulsion barrier is determined by the overlap between the electric double layers, while at relatively high salt concentrations, the magnitude of the repulsion barrier is determined by the electrostatic correlations. Due to the competition between the electric double layer and the electrostatic correlations, the magnitude of the repulsion barrier varies nonmonotonically. In contrast, a mean-field Poisson-Boltzmann treatment of the electrostatics predicts a monotonically decreasing repulsion barrier with increasing salt concentration. At moderate salt concentrations, our theory predicts oscillatory interaction profiles. A comparison with the mean-field Poisson-Boltzmann treatment of electrostatics suggests that the oscillations are due primarily to electrostatic correlations.

Additional Information

© 2019 Published under license by AIP Publishing. Submitted: 5 August 2019; Accepted: 13 November 2019; Published Online: 2 December 2019. The Dow Chemical Company is acknowledged for funding and for permission to publish the results.

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