Are electrostatic potentials between regions of different chemical composition measurable? the Gibbs-Guggenheim principle reconsidered, extended and its consequences revisited

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Abstract

As indicated by Gibbs and made explicit by Guggenheim, the electrical potential difference between two regions of different chemical composition cannot be measured. The Gibbs-Guggenheim Principle restricts the use of classical electrostatics in electrochemical theories as thermodynamically unsound with some few approximate exceptions, notably for dilute electrolyte solutions and concomitant low potentials where the linear limit for the exponential of the relevant Boltzmann distribution applies. The Principle invalidates the widespread use of forms of the Poisson-Boltzmann equation which do not include the non-electrostatic components of the chemical potentials of the ions. From a thermodynamic analysis of the parallel plate electrical condenser, employing only measurable electrical quantities and taking into account the chemical potentials of the components of the dielectric and their adsorption at the surfaces of the condenser plates, an experimental procedure to provide exceptions to the Principle has been proposed. This procedure is now reconsidered and rejected. No other related experimental procedures circumvent the Principle. Widely-used theoretical descriptions of electrolyte solutions, charged surfaces and colloid dispersions which neglect the Principle are briefly discussed. MD methods avoid the limitations of the Poisson-Bolzmann equation. Theoretical models which include the non-electrostatic components of the inter-ion and ion-surface interactions in solutions and colloid systems assume the additivity of dispersion and electrostatic forces. An experimental procedure to test this assumption is identified from the thermodynamics of condensers at microscopic plate separations. The available experimental data from Kelvin probe studies are preliminary, but tend against additivity. A corollary to the Gibbs-Guggenheim Principle is enunciated, and the Principle is restated that for any charged species, neither the difference in electrostatic potential nor the sum of the differences in the non-electrostatic components of the thermodynamic potential difference between regions of different chemical compositions can be measured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6253-6262
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Volume9
Issue number47
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 7 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry

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