Long-range polarization attraction between two different like-charged macroions

Rui Zhang, B. I. Shklovskii

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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It is known that in a water solution with multivalent counterions (Z-ions) two likely charged macroions can attract each other due to correlations of Z-ions adsorbed on their surfaces. This "correlation" attraction is short ranged and decays exponentially with increasing distance between macroions at characteristic distance A2π, where A is the average distance between Z-ions on the surfaces of macroions. In this work, we show that an additional long-range "polarization" attraction exists when the bare surface charge densities of the two macroions have the same sign, but are different in absolute values. The key idea is that with adsorbed Z-ions, two insulating macroions can be considered as conductors with fixed but different electric potentials. Each potential is determined by the difference between the entropic bulk chemical potential of a Z-ion and its correlation chemical potential at the surface of the macroion determined by its bare surface charge density. When the two macroions are close enough, they get polarized in such a way that their adjacent spots form a charged capacitor, which leads to attraction. In a salt-free solution this polarization attractive force is long ranged: it decays as a power of the distance between the surfaces of two macroions, d. The polarization force decays slower than the van der Waals attraction and therefore is much larger than it in a large range of distances. In the presence of large amount of monovalent salt, the polarization attraction decays exponentially at d larger than the Debye-Hückel screening radius rs. Still, when A2πdrs, this force is much stronger than the van der Waals attraction and the correlation attraction mentioned above. The recent atomic force experiment has shown evidence for this polarization attraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number021405
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2005


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