Quantifying the thickness of the electrical double layer neutralizing a planar electrode: the capacitive compactness†
The spatial extension of the ionic cloud neutralizing a charged colloid or an electrode is usually characterized by the Debye length associated with the supporting charged fluid in the bulk. This spatial length arises naturally in the linear Poisson–Boltzmann theory of point charges, which is the cornerstone of the widely used Derjaguin–Landau–Verwey–Overbeek formalism describing the colloidal stability of electrified macroparticles. By definition, the Debye length is independent of important physical features of charged solutions such as the colloidal charge, electrostatic ion correlations, ionic excluded volume effects, or specific short-range interactions, just to mention a few. In order to include consistently these features to describe more accurately the thickness of the electrical double layer of an inhomogeneous charged fluid in planar geometry, we propose here the use of the capacitive compactness concept as a generalization of the compactness of the spherical electrical double layer around a small macroion (González-Tovar et al., J. Chem. Phys. 2004, 120, 9782). To exemplify the usefulness of the capacitive compactness to characterize strongly coupled charged fluids in external electric fields, we use integral equations theory and Monte Carlo simulations to analyze the electrical properties of a model molten salt near a planar electrode. In particular, we study the electrode's charge neutralization, and the maximum inversion of the net charge per unit area of the electrode-molten salt system as a function of the ionic concentration, and the electrode's charge. The behaviour of the associated capacitive compactness is interpreted in terms of the charge neutralization capacity of the highly correlated charged fluid, which evidences a shrinking/expansion of the electrical double layer at a microscopic level. The capacitive compactness and its first two derivatives are expressed in terms of experimentally measurable macroscopic properties such as the differential and integral capacity, the electrode's surface charge density, and the mean electrostatic potential at the electrode's surface.
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