Atomic-resolution three-dimensional hydration structures on a heterogeneously charged surface

K Umeda and L Zivanovic and K Kobayashi and J Ritala and H Kominami and P Spijker and AS Foster and H Yamada, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 8, 2111 (2017).

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01896-4

Local hydration structures at the solid-liquid interface around boundary edges on hetero-structures are key to an atomic-level understanding of various physical, chemical and biological processes. Recently, we succeeded in visualising atomic-scale three-dimensional hydration structures by using ultra-low noise frequency-modulation atomic force microscopy. However, the time-consuming three-dimensional-map measurements on uneven heterogeneous surfaces have not been achieved due to experimental difficulties, to the best of our knowledge. Here, we report the local hydration structures formed on a heterogeneously charged phyllosilicate surface using a recently established fast and nondestructive acquisition protocol. We discover intermediate regions formed at step edges of the charged surface. By combining with molecular dynamics simulations, we reveal that the distinct structural hydrations are hard to observe in these regions, unlike the charged surface regions, possibly due to the depletion of ions at the edges. Our methodology and findings could be crucial for the exploration of further functionalities.

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