Fluctuating hydrodynamics of electrolytes at electroneutral scales

Aleksandar Donev, Andrew J. Nonaka, Changho Kim, Alejandro L. Garcia, John B. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At mesoscopic scales electrolyte solutions are modeled by the fluctuating generalized Poisson-Nernst-Planck (PNP) equations [J.-P. Péraud, Phys. Rev. Fluids 1, 074103 (2016)2469-990X10.1103/PhysRevFluids.1.074103]. However, at length and time scales larger than the Debye scales, electrolytes are effectively electroneutral and the charged-fluid PNP equations become too stiff to solve numerically. Here we formulate the isothermal incompressible equations of fluctuating hydrodynamics for reactive multispecies mixtures involving charged species in the electroneutral limit and design a numerical algorithm to solve these equations. Our model does not assume a dilute electrolyte solution but rather treats all species on an equal footing, accounting for cross diffusion and nonideality using Maxwell-Stefan theory. By enforcing local electroneutrality as a constraint, we obtain an elliptic equation for the electric potential that replaces the Poisson equation in the fluctuating PNP equations. We develop a second-order midpoint predictor-corrector algorithm to solve either the charged-fluid or electroneutral equations with only a change of the elliptic solver. We use the electroneutral algorithm to study a gravitational fingering instability, triggered by thermal fluctuations, at an interface where an acid and base react to neutralize each other. Our results demonstrate that, because the four ions diffuse with very different coefficients, one must treat each ion as an individual species and cannot treat the acid, base, and salt as neutral species. This emphasizes the differences between electrodiffusion and classical Fickian diffusion, even at electroneutral scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number043701
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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