Understanding controls on interfacial wetting at epitaxial graphene: Experiment and theory

H Zhou and P Ganesh and V Presser and MCF Wander and P Fenter and PRC Kent and DE Jiang and AA Chialvo and J McDonough and KL Shuford and Y Gogotsi, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 85, 035406 (2012).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.85.035406

The interaction of interfacial water with graphitic carbon at the atomic scale is studied as a function of the hydrophobicity of epitaxial graphene. High resolution x-ray reflectivity shows that the graphene- water contact angle is controlled by the average graphene thickness, due to the fraction of the film surface expressed as the epitaxial buffer layer whose contact angle (contact angle theta(c) = 73 degrees) is substantially smaller than that of multilayer graphene (theta(c) = 93 degrees). Classical and ab initio molecular dynamics simulations show that the reduced contact angle of the buffer layer is due to both its epitaxy with the SiC substrate and the presence of interfacial defects. This insight clarifies the relationship between interfacial water structure and hydrophobicity, in general, and suggests new routes to control interface properties of epitaxial graphene.

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