Locally optimal geometry for surface-enhanced diffusion

Phys Rev E. 2023 Oct;108(4-2):045101. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.108.045101.


Molecular diffusion in bulk liquids proceeds according to Fick's law, which stipulates that the particle current is proportional to the conductive area. This constrains the efficiency of filtration systems in which both selectivity and permeability are valued. Previous studies have demonstrated that interactions between the diffusing species and solid boundaries can enhance or reduce particle transport relative to bulk conditions. However, only cases that preserve the monotonic relationship between particle current and conductive area are known. In this paper, we expose a system in which the diffusive current increases when the conductive area diminishes. These examples are based on the century-old theory of a charged particle interacting with an electrical double layer. This surprising discovery could improve the efficiency of filtration and may advance our understanding of biological pore structures.