Understanding specific ion effects and the Hofmeister series

Kasimir P. Gregory, Gareth R. Elliott, Hayden Robertson, Anand Kumar, Erica J. Wanless, Grant B. Webber, Vincent S. J. Craig, Gunther G. Andersson, Alister J. Page

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63 Citations (Scopus)
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Specific ion effects (SIE), encompassing the Hofmeister Series, have been known for more than 130 years since Hofmeister and Lewith's foundational work. SIEs are ubiquitous and are observed across the medical, biological, chemical and industrial sciences. Nevertheless, no general predictive theory has yet been able to explain ion specificity across these fields; it remains impossible to predict when, how, and to what magnitude, a SIE will be observed. In part, this is due to the complexity of real systems in which ions, counterions, solvents and cosolutes all play varying roles, which give rise to anomalies and reversals in anticipated SIEs. Herein we review the historical explanations for SIE in water and the key ion properties that have been attributed to them. Systems where the Hofmeister series is perturbed or reversed are explored, as is the behaviour of ions at the liquid-vapour interface. We discuss SIEs in mixed electrolytes, nonaqueous solvents, and in highly concentrated electrolyte solutions - exciting frontiers in this field with particular relevance to biological and electrochemical applications. We conclude the perspective by summarising the challenges and opportunities facing this SIE research that highlight potential pathways towards a general predictive theory of SIE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12682-12718
Number of pages37
JournalPhysical chemistry chemical physics : PCCP
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2022


  • Specific ion effects
  • SIE
  • Hofmeister Series
  • ion
  • liquid–vapour interface
  • electrochemical
  • electrolytes
  • nonaqueous solvents


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