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J Phys Chem B. 2005 Apr 28;109(16):7976-80.

Evidence for an enhanced hydronium concentration at the liquid water surface.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-1460, USA.


The recent demonstration of enhanced surface anion concentrations for aqueous electrolyte solutions strongly contrasts current textbook descriptions. Small cations are still expected to be repelled from the surface, but recent simulations predict that hydronium (H3O+) cations are instead preferentially adsorbed at the interface. Here we describe a comparative second harmonic generation (SHG) study of aqueous solutions of hydriodic acid (HI) and alkali iodides (NaI and KI), which establish lower limits of 55% and 34% larger surface iodide concentrations for HI solutions relative to NaI and KI solutions, respectively. This result implies that hydronium ions must exist in much higher densities near the liquid surface than do the alkali ions, in support of the theoretical predictions.

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