The Donnan equilibrium: I. On the thermodynamic foundation of the Donnan equation of state

A.P. Philipse, A. Vrij

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The thermodynamic equilibrium between charged colloids and an electrolyte reservoir is named after Frederic Donnan who first published on it one century ago (Donnan 1911 Z. Electrochem. 17 572). One of the intriguing features of the Donnan equilibrium is the ensuing osmotic equation of state which is a nonlinear one, even when both colloids and ions obey Van ’t Hoff’s ideal osmotic pressure law. The Donnan equation of state, nevertheless, is internally consistent; we demonstrate it to be a rigorous consequence of the phenomenological thermodynamics of a neutral bulk suspension equilibrating with an infinite salt reservoir. Our proof is based on an exact thermodynamic relation between osmotic pressure and salt adsorption which, when applied to ideal ions, does indeed entail the Donnan equation of state. Our derivation also shows that, contrary to what is often assumed, the Donnan equilibrium does not require ideality of the colloids: the Donnan model merely evaluates the osmotic pressure of homogeneously distributed ions, in excess of the pressure exerted by an arbitrary reference fluid of uncharged colloids. We also conclude that results from the phenomenological Donnan model coincide with predictions from statistical thermodynamics in the limit of weakly charged, point-like colloids.
Original languageEnglish
Article number194106
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physics: Condensed Matter
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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