Liquid flow reversibly creates a macroscopic surface charge gradient

Patrick Ober, Willem Q. Boon, Marjolein Dijkstra, Ellen H.G. Backus, René van Roij*, Mischa Bonn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The charging and dissolution of mineral surfaces in contact with flowing liquids are ubiquitous in nature, as most minerals in water spontaneously acquire charge and dissolve. Mineral dissolution has been studied extensively under equilibrium conditions, even though non-equilibrium phenomena are pervasive and substantially affect the mineral-water interface. Here we demonstrate using interface-specific spectroscopy that liquid flow along a calcium fluoride surface creates a reversible spatial charge gradient, with decreasing surface charge downstream of the flow. The surface charge gradient can be quantitatively accounted for by a reaction-diffusion-advection model, which reveals that the charge gradient results from a delicate interplay between diffusion, advection, dissolution, and desorption/adsorption. The underlying mechanism is expected to be valid for a wide variety of systems, including groundwater flows in nature and microfluidic systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4102
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2021


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