Hydration layers at the graphite-water interface: Attraction or confinement

H Songen and YM Jaques and L Zivanovic and S Seibert and R Bechstein and P Spijker and H Onishi and AS Foster and A Kuhnle, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 100, 205410 (2019).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.100.205410

Water molecules at solid surfaces typically arrange in layers. The physical origin of the hydration layers is usually explained by two different reasons: (1) the attraction between the surface and water and (2) the water confinement due to the surface. While the attraction is specific to the particular solid, the confinement is a general property of surfaces; a differentiation between the two effects is, therefore, critical for research on interactions at aqueous interfaces. Here, we investigate the graphite-water interface, which is a widely used model system where the solid-water attraction is often considered to be negligible Similar to previous studies, we observe hydration layers using three-dimensional atomic force microscopy at the graphite-water interface. We explain why the confinement could cause the formation of hydration layers even in the absence of attraction between surface and water by employing Monte Carlo simulations. Using additional molecular dynamics simulations, we continue to show that at ambient conditions, however, the confinement alone does not cause the formation of layers at the graphite-water interface. We thereby demonstrate that there is a significant graphite-water attraction.

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