We employ a continuum theory of solvent-free ionic liquids accounting for both short-range electrostatic correlations and steric effects (finite ion size) [Bazant et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 046102 (2011)] to study the response of a model microelectrochemical cell to a step voltage. The model problem consists of a 1-1 symmetric ionic liquid between two parallel blocking electrodes, neglecting any transverse transport phenomena. Matched asymptotic expansions in the limit of thin double layers are applied to analyze the resulting one-dimensional equations and study the overall charge-time relation in the weakly nonlinear regime. One important conclusion is that our simple scaling analysis suggests that the length scale √λ*Dl*caccurately characterizes the double-layer structure of ionic liquids with strong electrostatic correlations where l*cis the electrostatic correlation length (in contrast, the Debye screening length λ*D is the primary double-layer length for electrolytes) and the response timeof λ*3/2D L*/(D*l1/2c) (not λ *DL*/D* that is the primary charging time of electrolytes) is the correct charging timescale of ionic liquids with strong electrostatic correlations where D* is the diffusivity and L* is the separation length of the cell. With these two new scales, data of both electric potential versus distance from the electrode and the total diffuse charge versus time collapse onto each individual master curve in the presence of strong electrostatic correlations. In addition, the dependance of the total diffuse charge on steric effects, short-range correlations, and driving voltages is thoroughly examined. The results from the asymptotic analysis are compared favorably with those from full numerical simulations. Finally, the absorption of excess salt by the double layer creates a depletion region outside the double layer. Such salt depletion may bring a correction to the leading order terms and break down the weakly nonlinear analysis. A criterion which justifies the weakly nonlinear analysis is verified with numerical simulations.
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Diffuse-Charge Dynamics of Ionic Liquids in Electrochemical Systems.
Physical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics,, 84(5),