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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Mar 17;106(11):4122-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812409106. Epub 2009 Feb 25.

Ordered water structure at hydrophobic graphite interfaces observed by 4D, ultrafast electron crystallography.

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  • 1Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology, Arthur Amos Noyes Laboratory of Chemical Physics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


Interfacial water has unique properties in various functions. Here, using 4-dimensional (4D), ultrafast electron crystallography with atomic-scale spatial and temporal resolution, we report study of structure and dynamics of interfacial water assembly on a hydrophobic surface. Structurally, vertically stacked bilayers on highly oriented pyrolytic graphite surface were determined to be ordered, contrary to the expectation that the strong hydrogen bonding of water on hydrophobic surfaces would dominate with suppressed interfacial order. Because of its terrace morphology, graphite plays the role of a template. The dynamics is also surprising. After the excitation of graphite by an ultrafast infrared pulse, the interfacial ice structure undergoes nonequilibrium "phase transformation" identified in the hydrogen-bond network through the observation of structural isosbestic point. We provide the time scales involved, the nature of ice-graphite structural dynamics, and relevance to properties related to confined water.

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