Low temperature physics at room temperature in water: Charge inversion in chemical and biological systems

A. Yu Grosberg, T. T. Nguyen, B. I. Shklovskii

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We review recent advances in the physics of strongly interacting charged systems functioning in water at room temperature. We concentrate on the phenomena which go beyond the framework of mean field theories, whether linear Debye-Hückel or non-linear Poisson-Boltzmann. We place major emphasis on charge inversion - a counterintuitive phenomenon in which a strongly charged particle, called macroion, binds so many counterions that its net charge changes sign. We discuss the universal theory of charge inversion based on the idea of a strongly correlated liquid of adsorbed counterions, similar to a Wigner crystal. This theory has a vast array of applications, particularly in biology and chemistry; for example, the DNA double helix in the presence of positive multivalent ions (e.g., polycations) acquires a net positive charge and drifts as a positive particle in electric field. This simplifies DNA uptake by the cell as needed for gene therapy, because the cell membrane is negatively charged. We discuss also the analogies of charge inversion in other fields of physics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-265
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of High Speed Electronics and Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We enjoyed collaboration with V. I. Perel, I. Rouzina, and M. Tanaka. We are grateful to V. Bloomfield, E. Braun, R. Bruinsma, P. Chaikin, A. Dobrynin, P. Dubin, M. Dyakonov, W. Gelbart, S. Girvin, W. Halley, C. Holm, J.-F. Joanny, A. Kabanov, V. Kabanov, A. Khokhlov, R. Kjellander, K. Kremer, A. Koulakov, V. Lobaskin, F. Livolant, D. Long, G. Manning, R. Netz, P. Pincus, R. Podgornik, E. Raspaud, M. Rubinstein, J.-L. Sikorav, U. Sivan, M. Voloshin, and J. Widom for useful discussions. We thank Zhifeng Shao for the permission to use Figs. 2 and 3 and S. Grant for the permission to use Fig. 12. T. T. N. and B. I. S. are supported by NSF DMR-9985785.


Dive into the research topics of 'Low temperature physics at room temperature in water: Charge inversion in chemical and biological systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this