Electrostatic interactions between diffuse soft multi-layered (bio)particles: beyond Debye–Hückel approximation and Deryagin formulation†
We report a steady-state theory for the evaluation of electrostatic interactions between identical or dissimilar spherical soft multi-layered (bio)particles, e.g. microgels or microorganisms. These generally consist of a rigid core surrounded by concentric ion-permeable layers that may differ in thickness, soft material density, chemical composition and degree of dissociation for the ionogenic groups. The formalism allows the account of diffuse interphases where distributions of ionogenic groups from one layer to the other are position-dependent. The model is valid for any number of ion-permeable layers around the core of the interacting soft particles and covers all limiting situations in terms of nature of interacting particles, i.e. homo- and hetero-interactions between hard, soft or entirely porous colloids. The theory is based on a rigorous numerical solution of the non-linearized Poisson–Boltzmann equation including radial and angular distortions of the electric field distribution within and outside the interacting soft particles in approach. The Gibbs energy of electrostatic interaction is obtained from a general expression derived following the method by Verwey and Overbeek based on appropriate electric double layer charging mechanisms. Original analytical solutions are provided here for cases where interaction takes place between soft multi-layered particles whose size and charge density are in line with Deryagin treatment and Debye–Hückel approximation. These situations include interactions between hard and soft particles, hard plate and soft particle or soft plate and soft particle. The flexibility of the formalism is highlighted by the discussion of few situations which clearly illustrate that electrostatic interaction between multi-layered particles may be partly or predominantly governed by potential distribution within the most internal layers. A major consequence is that both amplitude and sign of Gibbs electrostatic interaction energy may dramatically change depending on the interplay between characteristic Debye length, thickness of ion-permeable layers and their respective protolytic features (e.g. location, magnitude and sign of charge density). This formalism extends a recent model by Ohshima which is strictly limited to interaction between soft mono-shell particles within Deryagin and Debye–Hückel approximations under conditions where ionizable sites are completely dissociated.