WIAS Preprint No. 2751, (2020)

Asymptotic study of the electric double layer at the interface of a polyelectrolyte gel and solvent bath


  • Hennessy, Matthew G.
  • Celora, Giulia L.
  • Münch, Andreas
  • Waters, Sarah L.
  • Wagner, Barbara
    ORCID: 0000-0001-8306-3645

2010 Mathematics Subject Classification

  • 74A30 80A22 34B15

2010 Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme

  • 83.80.Rs; 83.10.Tv


  • Polyelectrolyte gel, phase separation, matched asymptotic expansions




An asymptotic framework is developed to study electric double layers that form at the inter-face between a solvent bath and a polyelectrolyte gel that can undergo phase separation. The kinetic model for the gel accounts for the finite strain of polyelectrolyte chains, free energy ofinternal interfaces, and Stefan?Maxwell diffusion. By assuming that the thickness of the doublelayer is small compared to the typical size of the gel, matched asymptotic expansions are used toderive electroneutral models with consistent jump conditions across the gel-bath interface in two-dimensional plane-strain as well as fully three-dimensional settings. The asymptotic frameworkis then applied to cylindrical gels that undergo volume phase transitions. The analysis indicatesthat Maxwell stresses are responsible for generating large compressive hoop stresses in the double layer of the gel when it is in the collapsed state, potentially leading to localised mechanicalinstabilities that cannot occur when the gel is in the swollen state. When the energy cost of in-ternal interfaces is sufficiently weak, a sharp transition between electrically neutral and chargedregions of the gel can occur. This transition truncates the double layer and causes it to have finitethickness. Moreover, phase separation within the double layer can occur. Both of these featuresare suppressed if the energy cost of internal interfaces is sufficiently high. Thus, interfacial freeenergy plays a critical role in controlling the structure of the double layer in the gel.

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