Solution pH change in non-uniform alternating current electric fields at frequencies above the electrode charging frequency

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© 2014 AIP Publishing LLC. AC Faradaic reactions have been reported as a mechanism inducing non-ideal phenomena such as flow reversal and cell deformation in electrokinetic microfluidic systems. Prior published work described experiments in parallel electrode arrays below the electrode charging frequency (fc), the frequency for electrical double layer charging at the electrode. However, 2D spatially non-uniform AC electric fields are required for applications such as in plane AC electroosmosis, AC electrothermal pumps, and dielectrophoresis. Many microscale experimental applications utilize AC frequencies around or above fc. In this work, a pH sensitive fluorescein sodium salt dye was used to detect [H+] as an indicator of Faradaic reactions in aqueous solutions within non-uniform AC electric fields. Comparison experiments with (a) parallel (2D uniform fields) electrodes and (b) organic media were employed to deduce the electrode charging mechanism at 5?kHz (1.5fc). Time dependency analysis illustrated that Faradaic reactions exist above the theoretically predicted electrode charging frequency. Spatial analysis showed [H+] varied spatially due to electric field non-uniformities and local pH changed at length scales greater than 50??m away from the electrode surface. Thus, non-uniform AC fields yielded spatially varied pH gradients as a direct consequence of ion path length differences while uniform fields did not yield pH gradients; the latter is consistent with prior published data. Frequency dependence was examined from 5 kHz to 12?kHz at 5.5 Vpp potential, and voltage dependency was explored from 3.5 to 7.5 Vpp at 5?kHz. Results suggest that Faradaic reactions can still proceed within electrochemical systems in the absence of well-established electrical double layers. This work also illustrates that in microfluidic systems, spatial medium variations must be considered as a function of experiment time, initial medium conditions, electric signal potential, frequency, and spatial position.

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