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Title: Charge transport dynamics in electrochemistry
Author: Dickinson, Edmund John Farrer
ISNI:       0000 0004 2723 4763
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Electrolytic solutions contain mobile ions that can pass current, and are essential components of any solution-phase electrochemical system. The Nernst–Planck–Poisson equations describe the electrodynamics and transport dynamics of electrolytic solutions. This thesis applies modern numerical and mathematical techniques in order to solve these equations, and hence determine the behaviour of electrochemical systems involving charge transport. The following systems are studied: a liquid junction where a concentration gradient causes charge transport; an ideally polarisable electrode where an applied potential difference causes charge transport; and an electrochemical cell where electrolysis causes charge transport. The nanometre Debye length and nanosecond Debye time scales are shown to control charge separation in electrolytic solutions. At equilibrium, charge separation is confined to within a Debye length scale of a charged electrode surface. Non-equilibrium charge separation is compensated in solution on a Debye time scale following a perturbation, whereafter electroneutrality dictates charge transport. The mechanism for the recovery of electroneutrality involves both migration and diffusion, and is non-linear for larger electrical potentials. Charge separation is an extremely important consideration on length scales comparable to the Debye length. The predicted features of capacitive charging and electrolysis at nanoelectrodes are shown to differ qualitatively from the behaviour of larger electrodes. Nanoscale charge separation can influence the behaviour of a larger system if it limits the overall rate of mass transport or electron transfer. This thesis advocates the use of numerical methods to solve the Nernst–Planck–Poisson equations, in order to avoid the simplifying approximations required by traditional analytical methods. As this thesis demonstrates, this methodology can reveal the behaviour of increasingly elaborate electrochemical systems, while illustrating the self-consistency and generality of fundamental theories concerning charge transport.
Supervisor: Compton, Richard G. Sponsor: St John's College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Computational chemistry ; Electrochemistry and electrolysis ; Nanomaterials ; Physical & theoretical chemistry ; Structure of interfaces ; Theoretical chemistry ; electrochemistry ; computational chemistry ; Nernst-Planck-Poisson equations ; charge separation ; electroneutrality ; charge transport ; mass transport ; diffusion ; migration ; double layer