Indexed on: 04 Nov '11Published on: 04 Nov '11Published in: The Journal of chemical physics
In a previous theoretical and simulation study [G. I. Guerrero-García, E. González-Tovar, and M. Olvera de la Cruz, Soft Matter 6, 2056 (2010)], it has been shown that an asymmetric charge neutralization and electrostatic screening depending on the charge polarity of a single nanoparticle occurs in the presence of a size-asymmetric monovalent electrolyte. This effect should also impact the effective potential between two macroions suspended in such a solution. Thus, in this work we study the mean force and the potential of mean force between two identical charged nanoparticles immersed in a size-asymmetric monovalent electrolyte, showing that these results go beyond the standard description provided by the well-known Derjaguin-Landau-Verwey-Overbeek theory. To include consistently the ion-size effects, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and liquid theory calculations are performed at the McMillan-Mayer level of description in which the solvent is taken into account implicitly as a background continuum with the suitable dielectric constant. Long-range electrostatic interactions are handled properly in the simulations via the well established Ewald sums method and the pre-averaged Ewald sums approach, originally proposed for homogeneous ionic fluids. An asymmetric behavior with respect to the colloidal charge polarity is found for the effective interactions between two identical nanoparticles. In particular, short-range attractions are observed between two equally charged nanoparticles, even though our model does not include specific interactions; these attractions are greatly enhanced for anionic nanoparticles immersed in standard electrolytes where cations are smaller than anions. Practical implications of some of the presented results are also briefly discussed. A good accord between the standard Ewald method and the pre-averaged Ewald approach is attained, despite the fact that the ionic system studied here is certainly inhomogeneous. In general, good agreement between the liquid theory approach and MD simulations is also found.