We revisit the classical problem of diffusion-limited ion transport to a membrane (or electrode) by considering the effects of charged sidewalls. Using simple mathematical models and numerical simulations, we identify three basic mechanisms for overlimiting current in a microchannel: (i) surface conduction carried by excess counterions, which dominates for very thin channels, (ii) convection by electro-osmotic flow on the sidewalls, which dominates for thicker channels, and (iii) transitions to electro-osmotic instability on the membrane end in very thick channels. These intriguing electrokinetic phenomena may find applications in biological separations, water desalination, and electrochemical energy storage.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy (all)