Concentration-Driven Surface Transition in the Wetting of Mixed Alkanethiol Monolayers on Gold

Abraham Ulman, Stephen D. Evans, Yitzhak Shnidman, Ravi Sharma, James E. Eilers, Jack C. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The construction of mixed monolayers containing hydrophobic and hydrophilic components for which the contact angles for three different liquids vary as a highly nonlinear function of the monolayer composition is reported. It is suggested that a prewetting, crystalline-like layer of water, possibly formed from bulk vapor, is present near the hydrophilic surface, because of an enhanced surface chemical potential (“surface field”). As the concentration of the hydrophilic component is lowered, increasing “quenched randomness” in the distribution of surface fields destroys the surface condensed water phase, thus triggering the observed nonlinearity in the contact angles. The microscopic structure of the water molecules adsorbed on an OH surface is revealed by continuum Monte Carlo simulations, with realistic force fields, and the scenario is supported by mean-field calculations on a simplified lattice-gas model. The observed wetting behavior at 30% relative humidity was altered for a relative humidity ≤2%, as well as when the surface of the monolayer was molecularly roughened by the addition of two CH2 groups to the hydrophobic (CH3-terminated) component of the mixed monolayers. It is suggested that this transitional phenomenon is due to a possible (true or rounded) surface phase transition, due to the formation of a prewetting water layer. This formation is triggered by variations in the quenched distribution of random surface fields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1499-1506
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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