2021 Impact factor 1.624
Soft Matter and Biological Physics

Eur. Phys. J. E 5, 189-205

Static van der Waals interactions in electrolytes

R.R. Netz

Max-Planck-Institut für Kolloid- und Grenzflächenforschung, Am Mühlenberg, 14424 Potsdam, Germany


(Received 17 February 2000)

Using a field-theoretic formalism, we calculate the static contribution to the van der Waals interaction between two dielectric semi-infinite half-spaces in the presence of mobile salt ions. The ions can be located in the slab, in one, or in both half-spaces. We include an excess polarizability of the salt ions, i.e., each (spherical) ion has a dielectric constant which in general is different from the surrounding medium. This leads to a modification of the effective dielectric constant of the medium hosting the ions. This shift can be large for high salt concentrations and therefore influences the Hamaker constant decisively. Salt ions in the slab screen the static van der Waals interaction, as was shown by Davies and Ninham. The salt-modified van der Waals interaction also contains salt-confinement and salt-correlation effects. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the interaction is non-zero even in the case when the dielectric constant is homogeneous throughout the system, in which case salt correlations are solely responsible for the interaction. If the salt ions are in one or both of the two half-spaces (and no ions in the slab), the van der Waals interaction is not screened but the effective Hamaker constant approaches a universal value for large slab thickness which is different from the value in the absence of salt ions and which is independent of the salt concentration and of the effective electrolyte dielectric constant. If both half-spaces contain salt, the asymptotic value of the Hamaker constant for large separation between the half-spaces is the one obtained for the interaction between two metallic half-spaces through an arbitrary dielectric medium, which is given by $A \simeq -1.20$. As is explicitly demonstrated, ion enrichment or depletion at the interfaces due to image-charge effects is already included on the one-loop level and therefore does not lead to a change of the screened van der Waals interaction as given by Davies and Ninham. For positive and negative ions with different valencies or different excess polarizabilities, we obtain different adsorbed surface excesses of positive and negative ions, leading to a non-vanishing surface potential, which is computed explicitly. All of these results are obtained on the linear one-loop level. For a special case we extend the calculation of the dispersion interaction to the two-loop level. We find the corrections to the one-loop results to be quite large for high salt concentrations or multivalent ions.

82.70.-y - Disperse systems; complex fluids.
61.20.Qg - Structure of associated liquids: electrolytes, molten salts, etc..
82.45.+z - Electrochemistry and electrophoresis.

© EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica, Springer-Verlag 2001