Ionic structure and decay length in highly concentrated confined electrolytes

N Anousheh and FJ Solis and V Jadhao, AIP ADVANCES, 10, 125312 (2020).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0028003

We use molecular dynamics simulations of the primitive model of electrolytes to study the ionic structure in aqueous monovalent electrolyte solutions confined by charged planar interfaces over a wide range of electrolyte concentrations, interfacial separations, surface charge densities, and ion sizes. The investigations are inspired by recent experiments that have directly measured the increase in the decay length for highly concentrated electrolytes with an increase in concentration. The behavior of ions in the nanoconfinement created by the interfaces is probed by evaluating the ionic density profiles, net charge densities, integrated charges, and decay lengths associated with the screening of the charged interface. The results show the presence of two distinct regimes of screening behavior as the concentration is changed from 0.1M to 2.5M for a wide range of electrolyte systems generated by tuning the interfacial separation, surface charge density, and ionic size. For low concentrations, the integrated charge exhibits a monotonic decay to 0 with a decay length that decreases sharply with increasing concentration. For high concentrations (greater than or similar to 1M), the integrated charge has a non-monotonic behavior signaling charge inversion and formation of structured layers of ions near the interfaces. The decay length under these conditions rises with increasing concentration. To complement the simulation results, a variational approach is developed that produces charge densities with characteristics consistent with those observed in simulations. The results demonstrate the relation between the rise in the strength of steric correlations and the changes in the screening behavior.

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