Indexed on: 18 Oct '06Published on: 18 Oct '06Published in: The Journal of chemical physics
We recently have reported [J. Chem. Phys. 122, 164701 (2005)] a family of electroconvective patterns that arise when charge-stabilized colloidal dispersions are driven by constant (dc) vertical electric fields. Competition between gravity and electrokinetic forces acting on the individual spheres in this system leads to the formation of highly organized convective instabilities involving hundreds of spheres. Here, we report a distinct class of electroconvective patterns that emerge in confined aqueous dispersions at higher biases. These qualitatively resemble the honeycomb and labyrinthine patterns formed during thermally driven Rayleigh-Benard convection, but arise from a distinct mechanism. Unlike the localized colloidal electroconvective patterns observed at lower biases, moreover, these system-spanning patterns form even without dispersed colloidal particles. Rather, they appear to result from an underlying electroconvective instability during electrolysis in the parallel plate geometry. This contrasts with recent theoretical results suggesting that simple electrolytes are linearly stable against electroconvection.