Mean-field description of ionic size effects with nonuniform ionic sizes: A numerical approach Article

Zhou, S, Wang, Z, Li, B. (2011). Mean-field description of ionic size effects with nonuniform ionic sizes: A numerical approach . PHYSICAL REVIEW E, 84(2), 10.1103/PhysRevE.84.021901

cited authors

  • Zhou, S; Wang, Z; Li, B



  • Ionic size effects are significant in many biological systems. Mean-field descriptions of such effects can be efficient but also challenging. When ionic sizes are different, explicit formulas in such descriptions are not available for the dependence of the ionic concentrations on the electrostatic potential, that is, there is no explicit Boltzmann-type distributions. This work begins with a variational formulation of the continuum electrostatics of an ionic solution with such nonuniform ionic sizes as well as multiple ionic valences. An augmented Lagrange multiplier method is then developed and implemented to numerically solve the underlying constrained optimization problem. The method is shown to be accurate and efficient, and is applied to ionic systems with nonuniform ionic sizes such as the sodium chloride solution. Extensive numerical tests demonstrate that the mean-field model and numerical method capture qualitatively some significant ionic size effects, particularly those for multivalent ionic solutions, such as the stratification of multivalent counterions near a charged surface. The ionic valence-to-volume ratio is found to be the key physical parameter in the stratification of concentrations. All these are not well described by the classical Poisson-Boltzmann theory, or the generalized Poisson-Boltzmann theory that treats uniform ionic sizes. Finally, various issues such as the close packing, limitation of the continuum model, and generalization of this work to molecular solvation are discussed. © 2011 American Physical Society.

publication date

  • August 1, 2011

published in

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


  • 84


  • 2