Journal of Fluid Mechanics


Induced-charge electro-osmosis

a1 Departments of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Physics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
a2 Department of Mathematics and Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

Article author query
squires t   [Google Scholar] 
bazant m   [Google Scholar] 


We describe the general phenomenon of ‘induced-charge electro-osmosis’ (ICEO) – the nonlinear electro-osmotic slip that occurs when an applied field acts on the ionic charge it induces around a polarizable surface. Motivated by a simple physical picture, we calculate ICEO flows around conducting cylinders in steady (DC), oscillatory (AC), and suddenly applied electric fields. This picture, and these systems, represent perhaps the clearest example of nonlinear electrokinetic phenomena. We complement and verify this physically motivated approach using a matched asymptotic expansion to the electrokinetic equations in the thin-double-layer and low-potential limits. ICEO slip velocities vary as $u_s \,{\propto}\,E_0^2 L$, where $E_0$ is the field strength and $L$ is a geometric length scale, and are set up on a time scale $\tau_c \,{=}\,\lambda_D L/D$, where $\lambda_D$ is the screening length and $D$ is the ionic diffusion constant. We propose and analyse ICEO microfluidic pumps and mixers that operate without moving parts under low applied potentials. Similar flows around metallic colloids with fixed total charge have been described in the Russian literature (largely unnoticed in the West). ICEO flows around conductors with fixed potential, on the other hand, have no colloidal analogue and offer further possibilities for microfluidic applications.

(Received May 5 2003)
(Revised February 13 2004)