The reason for this perplexing behavior is subtle. Water forms chemical or hydrogen bonds with certain surfaces, while the attraction of water to other surfaces is dictated by non-bonding interactions called van der Waals forces. These non-bonding forces are not unlike a nanoscale version of gravity, Koratkar said. Similar to how gravity dictates the interaction between the Earth and sun, van der Waals forces dictate the interaction between atoms and molecules.
In the case of gold, copper, silicon, and other materials, the van der Waals forces between the surface and water droplet determine the attraction of water to the surface and dictate how water spreads on the solid surface. In general, these forces have a range of at least several nanometers. Because of the long range, these forces are not disrupted by the presence of a single-atom-thick layer of graphene between the surface and the water. In other words, the van der Waals forces are able to "look through" ultra-thin graphene coatings, Koratkar said.
If you continue to add additional layers of graphene, however, the van der Waals forces increasingly "see" the carbon coating on top of the material instead of the underlying surface material. After stacking six layers of graphene, the separation between the graphene and the surface is sufficiently large to ensure that the van der Waals forces can now no longer sense the presence of the underlying surface and instead only see the graphene coating. On surfaces where water forms hydrogen bonds with the surface, the wetting transparency effect described above does not hold because such chemical bonds cannot form through the graphene layer.
Along with conducting physical experiments, the re
|Contact: Michael Mullaney|
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute