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Focus Article: Oscillatory and long-range monotonic exponential decays of electrostatic interactions in ionic liquids and other electrolytes: The significance of dielectric permittivity and renormalized charges

Journal article
Authors Roland Kjellander
Published in Journal of Chemical Physics
Volume 148
Issue 19
ISSN 0021-9606
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Language en
Keywords double-layer, concentrated electrolytes, aqueous solutions, dielectric function, wave-vector, fluids, intermolecular forces, surface forces
Subject categories Chemical physics


A unified treatment of oscillatory and monotonic exponential decays of interactions in electrolytes is displayed, which highlights the role of dielectric response of the fluid in terms of renormalized (effective) dielectric permittivity and charges. An exact, but physically transparent statistical mechanical formalism is thereby used, which is presented in a systematic, pedagogical manner. Both the oscillatory and monotonic behaviors are given by an equation for the decay length of screened electrostatic interactions that is very similar to the classical expression for the Debye length. The renormalized dielectric permittivities, which have similar roles for electrolytes as the dielectric constant has for pure polar fluids, consist in general of several entities with different physical meanings. They are connected to dielectric response of the fluid on the same length scale as the decay length of the screened interactions. Only in cases where the decay length is very long, these permittivities correspond approximately to a dielectric response in the long-wavelength limit, like the dielectric constant for polar fluids. Experimentally observed long-range exponentially decaying surface forces are analyzed as well as the oscillatory forces observed for short to intermediate surface separations. Both occur in some ionic liquids and in concentrated as well as very dilute electrolyte solutions. The coexisting modes of decay are in general determined by the bulk properties of the fluid and not by the solvation of the surfaces; in the present cases, they are given by the behavior of the screened Coulomb interaction of the bulk fluid. The surface-fluid interactions influence the amplitudes and signs or phases of the different modes of the decay, but not their decay lengths and wavelengths. The similarities between some ionic liquids and very dilute electrolyte solutions as regards both the long-range monotonic and the oscillatory decays are analyzed. Published by AIP Publishing.

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