Ion current rectification at nanopores in glass membranes

Langmuir. 2008 Mar 4;24(5):2212-8. doi: 10.1021/la702955k. Epub 2008 Jan 29.


The origin of ion current rectification observed at conical-shaped nanopores in glass membranes immersed in KCl solutions has been investigated using finite-element simulations. The ion concentrations and fluxes (due to diffusion, migration, and electroosmotic convection) were determined by the simultaneous solution of the Nernst-Planck, Poisson, and Navier-Stokes equations for the two-ion (K+ and Cl-) system. Fixed surface charge on both the internal and external glass surfaces that define the pore structure was included to account for electric fields and nonuniform ion conductivity within the nanopores and electric fields in the external solution near the pore mouth. We demonstrate that previous observations of ion current rectification in conical-shaped glass nanopores are a consequence of the voltage-dependent solution conductivity in the vicinity of the pore mouth, both inside and outside of the pore. The simulations also demonstrate that current rectification is maximized at intermediate bulk ion concentrations, a combination of (i) the electrical screening of surface charge at high concentrations and (ii) a fixed number of charge-carrying ions in the pore at lower concentration, which are physical conditions where the voltage dependence of the conductivity disappears. In addition, we have quantitatively shown that electroosmotic flow gives rise to a significant but small contribution to current rectification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electrochemistry
  • Glass*
  • Ions / chemistry
  • Membranes, Artificial*
  • Nanotechnology*
  • Porosity


  • Ions
  • Membranes, Artificial