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Nano Lett. 2011 Dec 14;11(12):5581-6. doi: 10.1021/nl2036639. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

The microscopic structure of adsorbed water on hydrophobic surfaces under ambient conditions.

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  • 1Kavli Nanoscience Institute and Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, MC 127-72, Pasadena, California 91125, United States.


The interaction of water vapor with hydrophobic surfaces is poorly understood. We utilize graphene templating to preserve and visualize the microscopic structures of adsorbed water on hydrophobic surfaces. Three well-defined surfaces [H-Si(111), graphite, and functionalized mica] were investigated, and water was found to adsorb as nanodroplets (∼10-100 nm in size) on all three surfaces under ambient conditions. The adsorbed nanodroplets were closely associated with atomic-scale surface defects and step-edges and wetted all the hydrophobic substrates with contact angles<∼10°, resulting in total water adsorption that was similar to what is found for hydrophilic surfaces. These results point to the significant differences between surface processes at the atomic/nanometer scales and in the macroscopic world.

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