A simple theory for interfacial properties of dilute solutions

Varun Mandalaparthy, W. G. Noid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Recent studies suggest that cosolute mixtures may exert significant non-additive effects upon protein stability. The corresponding liquid-vapor interfaces may provide useful insight into these non-additive effects. Accordingly, in this work, we relate the interfacial properties of dilute multicomponent solutions to the interactions between solutes. We first derive a simple model for the surface excess of solutes in terms of thermodynamic observables. We then develop a lattice-based statistical mechanical perturbation theory to derive these observables from microscopic interactions. Rather than adopting a random mixing approximation, this dilute solution theory (DST) exactly treats solute-solute interactions to lowest order in perturbation theory. Although it cannot treat concentrated solutions, Monte Carlo (MC) simulations demonstrate that DST describes the interactions in dilute solutions with much greater accuracy than regular solution theory. Importantly, DST emphasizes a fundamental distinction between the "intrinsic"and "effective"preferences of solutes for interfaces. DST predicts that three classes of solutes can be distinguished by their intrinsic preference for interfaces. While the surface preference of strong depletants is relatively insensitive to interactions, the surface preference of strong surfactants can be modulated by interactions at the interface. Moreover, DST predicts that the surface preference of weak depletants and weak surfactants can be qualitatively inverted by interactions in the bulk. We also demonstrate that DST can be extended to treat surface polarization effects and to model experimental data. MC simulations validate the accuracy of DST predictions for lattice systems that correspond to molar concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number034703
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 21 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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