Non-mean-field theory of anomalously large double layer capacitance

M. S. Loth, Brian Skinner, B. I. Shklovskii

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17 Scopus citations


Mean-field theories claim that the capacitance of the double layer formed at a metal/ionic conductor interface cannot be larger than that of the Helmholtz capacitor, whose width is equal to the radius of an ion. However, in some experiments the apparent width of the double layer capacitor is substantially smaller. We propose an alternate non-mean-field theory of the ionic double layer to explain such large capacitance values. Our theory allows for the binding of discrete ions to their image charges in the metal, which results in the formation of interface dipoles. We focus primarily on the case where only small cations are mobile and other ions form an oppositely charged background. In this case, at small temperature and zero applied voltage dipoles form a correlated liquid on both contacts. We show that at small voltages the capacitance of the double layer is determined by the transfer of dipoles from one electrode to the other and is therefore limited only by the weak dipole-dipole repulsion between bound ions so that the capacitance is very large. At large voltages the depletion of bound ions from one of the capacitor electrodes triggers a collapse of the capacitance to the much smaller mean-field value, as seen in experimental data. We test our analytical predictions with a Monte Carlo simulation and find good agreement. We further argue that our "one-component plasma" model should work well for strongly asymmetric ion liquids. We believe that this work also suggests an improved theory of pseudocapacitance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number016107
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 19 2010

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