The inference of the surface charge of polyethylene glycol (PEG)-coated and uncoated silicon membranes with nanoscale pore sizes from streaming potential measurements in the presence of finite electric double layer (EDL) effects is studied theoretically and experimentally. The developed theoretical model for inferring the pore wall surface charge density from streaming potential measurements is applicable to arbitrary pore cross-sectional shapes and accounts for the effect of finite salt concentration on the ionic mobilities and the thickness of the deposited layer of PEG. Theoretical interpretation of the streaming potential data collected from silicon membranes having nanoscale pore sizes, with/without pore wall surface modification with PEG, indicates that finite electric double layer (EDL) effects in the pore-confined electrolyte significantly affect the interpretation of the membrane charge and that surface modification with PEG leads to a reduction in the pore wall surface charge density. The theoretical model is also used to study the relative significance of the following uniquely nanoscale factors affecting the interpretation of streaming potential in moderate to strongly charged pores: altered net charge convection by applied pressure differentials, surface-charge effects on ionic conduction, and electroosmotic convection of charges.
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