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Langmuir. 2010 Jun 1;26(11):8161-73. doi: 10.1021/la9044682.

Electrofluidic gating of a chemically reactive surface.

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Department of Physics, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.


We consider the influence of an electric field applied normal to the electric double layer at a chemically reactive surface. Our goal is to elucidate how surface chemistry affects the potential for field-effect control over micro- and nanofluidic systems, which we call electrofluidic gating. The charging of a metal-oxide-electrolyte (MOE) capacitor is first modeled analytically. We apply the Poisson-Boltzmann description of the double layer and impose chemical equilibrium between the ionizable surface groups and the solution at the solid-liquid interface. The chemically reactive surface is predicted to behave as a buffer, regulating the charge in the double layer by either protonating or deprotonating in response to the applied field. We present the dependence of the charge density and the electrochemical potential of the double layer on the applied field, the density, and the dissociation constants of ionizable surface groups and the ionic strength and the pH of the electrolyte. We simulate the responses of SiO(2) and Al(2)O(3), two widely used oxide insulators with different surface chemistries. We also consider the limits to electrofluidic gating imposed by the nonlinear behavior of the double layer and the dielectric strength of oxide materials, which were measured for SiO(2) and Al(2)O(3) films in MOE configurations. Our results clarify the response of chemically reactive surfaces to applied fields, which is crucial to understanding electrofluidic effects in real devices.


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