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Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2010 May 14;12(18):4604-16. doi: 10.1039/b923382b. Epub 2010 Mar 16.

Water adsorption on hydrophilic and hydrophobic self-assembled monolayers as proxies for atmospheric surfaces. A grand canonical Monte Carlo simulation study.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Informatics, Faculty of Education, University of Szeged, Boldogasszony sgt. 6. H-6725 Szeged, Hungary.


Grand canonical Monte Carlo simulations are used to determine water adsorption on prototypical organic surfaces as a function of relative humidity at 300 K. Three model surfaces formed by well-ordered self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) of alkanethiolate chains on gold are investigated: (i) a smooth hydrophobic surface of methyl-terminated C(7)-CH(3) SAM; (ii) a rough hydrophobic surface of randomly mixed two-component SAM, composed of equal fractions of C(5)-CH(3) and C(7)-CH(3) chains (C(5)/C(7)-CH(3) SAM); and (iii) a smooth hydrophilic surface of carboxyl-terminated C(7)-COOH SAM. The all atom CHARMM22 force field is used for the SAM chains together with the SPC/E model for water. No noticeable water adsorption is observed on the smooth hydrophobic surface up to saturation. The mild surface roughness introduced by the uneven chain length of the two components constituting the C(5)/C(7)-CH(3) SAM has no significant effect on the surface hydrophobicity, and the rough hydrophobic surface also remains dry up to the point when water condensation occurs. In contrast, water readily adsorbs onto the hydrophilic surface by forming hydrogen bonds with the COOH groups of the substrate. In addition, hydrogen bonding with pre-adsorbed water molecules contributes to the mechanism of water uptake. Under low humidity conditions, water is present on the hydrophilic surface as individual molecules or small water clusters and, with increasing relative humidity, the surface coverage grows continuously beyond a monolayer formation. The adsorbed water film is observed to be rather inhomogeneous with patches of bare surface exposed. The amount of water constituting a stable adsorption layer prior to condensation is estimated to consist of about 2-5 molecular layers. Detailed analysis of the simulation results is used to obtain important insights into the structure and energetics of water adsorbed on highly oxidized organic surfaces exposed to ambient air of increasing relative humidity.

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