Thursday, February 28, 2008

We have [finally] finished transport properties

In Chapter 17 we tackled many various transport properties, essentially extending the topics from pchem I [equilibrium thermodynamics] into time-dependent irreversible thermodynamics. Critical to this endeavor are the concepts of flux, gradient and curvature, each of which adds a unique parameter in which to describe nonequilibrium phenomena.

We first tackled ionic conduction, a logical extension of the electrochemical systems we examined in previous chapters [indeed, membrane potentials pointed the way towards this topic]. We saw how charged particles migrate under the influence of an electric field [an electrical potential gradient] and how Arrhenius and Kohlrausch stumbled onto the discovery that solutions were comprised of electrolytes, leading to mathematical expressions for both strong and weak electrolytes. (Arrhenius, incidentally, subscribed -- at least partially -- to a number of unusual theories). Ostwald contributed the dilution law, a clever method of obtaining dissociation constants by measuring the conductance of a series of dilutions of an electrolyte.

We can further characterize how fast an ion moves through a solvent under the influence of an external electric field from the equation si=uiE, where ui, the ionic mobility, is a parameter based on the identity of a particular ion (which also tells us something about how that ion interacts with water). Of special note is the Grotthuss mechanism, which helps explain why the mobilities of H+ and OH-. Another helpful parameter is the transport number, or the fraction of the total current carried by a particular ion.

Shifting gears, we next tackled viscosity, the phenomena in which linear momentum is transported between sheets of flowing liquid, first described by Sir Isaac Newton in the 18th century. In fact, Newton's Law of Flow leads directly to the observation that, for laminar flow, the velocity profile through a tube is parabolic (with the greatest velocity at R=0). We can use this result in turn to verify Poiseulle's Law, which associates flow rate dV/dt with the fluid viscosity. Newton's Law will not hold for nonlaminar [aka turbulent] flow, characterized by a high Reynolds number, or for thixotropic and/or dilatant fluids.

Our next transport property was one of enormous chemical and physiological importance, the diffusive motion of matter through a medium due only to thermal fluctuations. Brownian motion was observed shortly after the advent of the microscope and was further characterized by the random-walk theories of Smoluchowski and Einstein. A more sophisticated treatment can be found in Fick's 1st and, especially, 2nd Law of Diffusion. In class we looked at three solutions to the diffusion equation: case 1 [a solution of known concentration diffusing into pure solvent, in which we first encountered the erf function]; case 2 [a layer of particles initially sandwiched on either side by pure solvent]; case 3 [a point source of particles diffusing in 3d through pure solvent].

Before moving on, we pause to note that diffusion and viscosity are related through the shape-dependent frictional coefficient, as described in the Einstein relation: D=kT/ƒ. Earlier, George Stokes, a pioneer of fluid dynamics, had established ƒ for many shapes through theoretical and experimental studies of bodies falling through viscous fluids. Of particular importance is the equation for a sphere, ƒ = 6πηa.

Related to diffusion is the motion of matter due to an external force, such as sedimentation [gravity and centrifugation] and electrokinesis [electric field]. Pioneered by Svedberg, analytical ultracentrifugation can reach simulated gravitational fields of nearly 1,000,000-g and is of considerable importance in polymer and biophysical characterizations of macromolecules. Sedimentation, when combined with diffusion information [often simultaneously in the AU], provides a method to experimentally measure the molar mass of a macromolecule/organelle/icky thing, a nontrivial parameter when dealing with conglomerates of particles with no discernible chemical formula. In addition, calculating its ƒ/ƒo (the ratio of the actual frictional coefficient to that if the molecule were spherical) gives us a unique shape parameter to describe its sphericality [or not].

Lastly we examined electrokinetic effects, a brief foray back into the world of electrochemistry. In these phenomena [notably electroosmosis and electrophoresis], the particle size is much larger, giving rise to an interface between the particle and the solution. Two models of this interface were discussed: the Helmholtz model [fixed double layer] and the Gouy-Chapman [diffuse double layer] model (truth in advertising: a third picture, the Stern model, which combines aspects of the Helmholtz and Gouy-Chapman models, is now preferred). Key to the diffuse double layer is the generation of a zeta potential, which is critical to explaining colloid stability and electroosmosis/electrophoresis.

Though not discussed in class, electroosmosis is likely to be of tremendous importance as microfluidic technologies gain maturity. Of course electrophoresis has become entrenched in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, first with the development of the Tiselius tube and then with gel electrophoresis. Separation of macromolecules is possible by electrophoretic means if they possess different isoelectric points [that pH at which the electrophoretic mobility is zero, primarily arising from the balancing of cationic and anionic groups on the molecule].

My hope is that its obvious by now why a good grounding in pchem is so necessary to fully appreciate much of what we take for granted in chemistry and biochemistry [for instance, something as mundane as centrifugation] and even in many of our sister disciplines [like physiology and soil science].

And now, onwards to chemical kinetics, the last topic of this quarter, in which we study how chemical identity changes with time. And though you have studied this before in both general and organic chemistry, this time we will do it correctly... :) [with chewy calculus goodness].


Anonymous said...

yay for the return of the blog!

Anonymous said...

Could you possibly post the solutions for the homework soon? Thanks!

rod said...

The solutions have been up for several minutes now! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank You!! :)