- This paper is concerned with ionic currents from an electrolyte solution into a charge-selective solid, such as, an electrode, an ion-exchange membrane or an array of nano-channels in a micro-fluidic system, and the related viscous fluid flows on the length scales varying from nanometers to millimeters. All systems of this kind have characteristic voltage–current curves with segments in which current nearly saturates at some plateau values due to concentration polarization — formation of solute concentration gradients under the passage of a DC current. A number of seemingly different phenomena occurring in that range, such as anomalous rectification in cathodic copper deposition from a copper sulfate solution, super-fast vortexes near an ion-exchange granule, overlimiting conductance in electrodialysis and the recently observed non-equilibrium electroosmotic instability, result from the formation of an additional extended space charge layer next to that of a classical electrical double layer at the solid/liquid interface. In this paper we review the peculiar features of the non-equilibrium electric double layer and extended space charge and the possibility of their direct probing by harmonic voltage/current perturbations through a linear and non-linear system's response, by the methods of electrical impedance spectroscopy and via the anomalous rectification effect. On the relevant microscopic scales the ionic transport in the direction normal to the interface is dominated by drift–diffusion; hence, the extended space charge related viscous flows remain beyond the scope of this paper.