Counterion condensation theory of attraction between like charges in the absence of multivalent counterions
Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Rutgers University, 610 Taylor Road, NJ08854-8087, Piscataway, USA
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Accepted: 7 December 2011
Published online: 23 December 2011
There is abundant experimental evidence suggesting the existence of attractive interactions among identically charged polyelectrolytes in ordinary salt solutions. The presence of multivalent counterions is not required. We review the relevant literature in detail and conclude that it merits more attention than it has received. We discuss also some recent observations of a low ionic strength attraction of negatively charged DNA to the region of a negatively charged glass nanoslit where the floor of the nanoslit meets the walls, again in the absence of multivalent ions. On the theoretical side, it has become clear that purely electrostatic interactions require the presence of multivalent counterions if they are to generate like-charge attraction. Any theory of like-charge attraction in the absence of multivalent counterions must therefore contain a non-electrostatic component. We point out that counterion condensation theory, which has predicted like-charge polyelectrolyte attraction in an intermediate range of distances in ordinary 1:1 salt conditions, contains both electrostatic and non-electrostatic elements. The non-electrostatic component of the theory is the modeling constraint that the counterions fall into two explicit populations, condensed and uncondensed. As reviewed in the paper, this physically motivated constraint is supported by strong experimental evidence. We proceed to offer an explanation of the nanoslit observations by showing in an idealized model that the line of intersection of two intersecting planes is a virtual polyelectrolyte. Since we have previously developed a counterion condensation theory of attraction of two like-charged polyelectrolytes, our suggestion is that the DNA is attracted to the virtual polyelectrolytes that may be located in the nanoslit where floor meets walls. We present the detailed calculations needed to document this suggestion: an extension of previous theory to the case of polyelectrolytes with like but not identical charges; the demonstration of counterion condensation on a plane with bare charge density greater than an explicitly exhibited critical value; a calculation of the free energy of the plane; a calculation of the interaction of a line charge polyelectrolyte with a like-charged plane; and the detailed demonstration that the line of intersection of two planes is a virtual polyelectrolyte.
© EDP Sciences, SIF, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2011