Electrostatic solvation and mobility in uniform and non-uniform electric fields: From simple ions to proteins

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17 Scopus citations


A number of observations related to interfacial electrostatics of polar liquids question the traditional assumption of dielectric theories that bulk dielectric properties can be continuously extended to the dividing surface separating the solute from the solvent. The deficiency of this approximation can be remedied by introducing local interface susceptibilities and the interface dielectric constant. Asymmetries of ionic hydration thermodynamics and of the mobility between cations and anions can be related to different propensities of the water molecules to orient their dipole toward and outward from solutes of opposite charges. This electrostatic asymmetry is reflected in different interface dielectric constants for cations and anions. The interface of water with neutral solutes is spontaneously polarized due to preferential water orientations in the interface. This phenomenon is responsible for a nonzero cavity potential directly related to a nonzero surface charge. This connection predicts that particles allowing a nonzero cavity potential must show mobility in an external electric field even if the net charge of the particle is zero. The theory predicts that a positive cavity potential and a positive surface charge translate to an effectively negative solute charge reported by mobility measurements. Passing of the cavity potential through a minimum found in simulations might be the origin of the maximum of mobility vs the ionic size observed experimentally. Finally, mobility of proteins in the field gradient (dielectrophoresis) is many orders of magnitude greater than predicted by the traditionally used Clausius-Mossotti equation. Two reasons contribute to this disagreement: (i) a failure of Maxwell's electrostatics to describe the cavity-field susceptibility and (ii) the neglect of the protein permanent dipole by the Clausius-Mossotti equation. An analytical relation between the dielectrophoretic susceptibility and dielectric spectroscopy of solutions provides direct access to this parameter, confirming the failure of the Clausius-Mossotti equation in application to protein dielectrophresis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number064106
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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