We report that an electro-osmotic instability of concentration enrichment in curved geometries for an aqueous electrolyte, as opposed to the well-known one, is initiated exclusively at the enriched interface (anode), rather than at the depleted one (cathode). For this instability, the limitation of an unrealistically high material Peclet number in planar geometry is eliminated by the strong electric field arising from the line charge singularity. In a model setup of concentric circular electrodes, we show by stability analysis, numerical simulation, and experimental visualization that instability occurs at the inner anode, below a critical radius of curvature. The stability criterion is also formulated in terms of a critical electric field and extended to arbitrary (two-dimensional) geometries by conformal mapping. This discovery suggests that transport may be enhanced in processes limited by salt enrichment, such as reverse osmosis, by triggering this instability with needlelike electrodes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the National Program in China and startup from Fudan University, and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation. Y. Z acknowledges NSFC 11972257 and 11832014.
© 2020 American Physical Society.