On the use of electrokinetics for unravelling charging and structure of soft planar polymer films
During the past decade, much attention has been devoted to the use of electrokinetic phenomena for addressing both charging mechanism and structure of multi-responsive soft polymeric layers whose thickness may range from few tens of nanometers to several microns. In particular, major progress was achieved in the quantitative reconstruction of streaming current data collected over a wide range of physico-chemical conditions using recent theories for electrohydrodynamics of soft diffuse planar interphases. In this article, we review the basics of the methodology adopted for deciphering the mechanisms governing the charging of electric double layers at soft planar films in connection with their structure that may vary according to pH, salt concentration or temperature depending on the responsive character of the system. It is demonstrated how the combination of streaming current, surface conductivity and swelling measurements allows for a comprehensive understanding of the interrelated protolytic, hydrodynamic, electrostatic and structural properties of polymer layers. We discuss the benefits and limits of the approach on the basis of studies carried out on uncharged, moderately charged and highly charged soft polymeric films supported by hard charged carriers. In a final part, the basic processes governing the peculiar electrokinetic properties of soft planar polyelectrolyte multilayers under lateral flow conditions are described. âº Recent theoretical developments on electrokinetics of soft planar surfaces are reviewed. âº The application of the theory is illustrated by case studies. âº Theoretical and experimental perspectives are discussed.