A simple statistical-mechanical interpretation of Onsager reciprocal relations and Derjaguin theory of thermo-osmosis

  • Oded FaragoEmail author
Regular Article


The application of a temperature gradient along a fluid-solid interface generates stresses in the fluid causing “thermo-osmotic” flow. Much of the understanding of this phenomenon is based on Derjaguin's work relating thermo-osmotic flows to the mechano-caloric effect, namely, the interfacial heat flow induced by a pressure gradient. This is done by using Onsager's reciprocity relationship for the equivalence of the thermo-osmotic and mechano-caloric cross-term transport coefficients. Both Derjaguin theory and Onsager framework for out-of-equilibrium systems are formulated in macroscopic thermodynamics terms and lack a clear interpretation at the molecular level. Here, we use statistical-mechanical tools to derive expressions for the transport cross-coefficients and, thereby, to directly demonstrate their equality. This is done for two basic models: i) an incopressible continuum solvent containing non-interacting solute particles, and ii) a single-component fluid without thermal expansivity. The derivation of the mechano-caloric coefficient appears to be remarkably simple, and provides a simple interpretation for the connection between interfacial heat and particle fluxes. We use this interpretation to consider yet another example, which is an electrolyte interacting with a uniformly charged surface in the strong screening (Debye-Hückel) regime.

Graphical abstract


Soft Matter: Interfacial Phenomena and Nanostructured Surfaces 



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© EDP Sciences / Società Italiana di Fisica / Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical EngineeringBen-Gurion University of the NegevBe’er ShevaIsrael

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