Theory of competitive counterion adsorption on flexible polyelectrolytes: Divalent salts
The counterion distribution around an isolated flexible polyelectrolyte in the presence of a divalent salt is evaluated using the adsorption model [ M. Muthukumar, J. Chem. Phys. 120, 9343 (2004) ] that considers the Bjerrum length, salt concentration, and local dielectric heterogeneity as physical variables in the system. Self-consistent calculations of effective charge and size of the polymer show that divalent counterions replace condensed monovalent counterions in competitive adsorption. The theory further predicts that at modest physical conditions for a flexible polyelectrolytes such as sodium polystyrene sulfonate in aqueous solutions polymer charge is compensated and reversed with increasing divalent salt. Consequently, the polyelectrolyte shrinks and reswells. Lower temperatures and higher degrees of dielectric heterogeneity between chain backbone and solvent enhance condensation of all species of ions. Complete diagrams of states for the effective charge calculated as functions of the Coulomb strength and salt concentration suggest that (a) overcharging requires a minimum Coulomb strength and (b) progressively higher presence of salt recharges the polymer due to either electrostatic screening (for low Coulomb strengths) or coion condensation (for high Coulomb strengths). Consideration of ion-bridging by divalent counterions leads to a first-order collapse of polyelectrolytes in modest presence of divalent salts and at higher Coulomb strengths. The authors’ theoretical predictions are in agreement with the generic results from experiments and simulations.