Surface vibrational structure at alkane liquid/vapor interfaces

Esenturk O., Walker R. A.

JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, vol.125, no.17, 2006 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 125 Issue: 17
  • Publication Date: 2006
  • Doi Number: 10.1063/1.2356858
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: No


Broadband vibrational sum frequency spectroscopy (VSFS) has been used to examine the surface structure of alkane liquid/vapor interfaces. The alkanes range in length from n-nonane (C9H20) to n-heptadecane (C17H36), and all liquids except heptadecane are studied at temperatures well above their bulk (and surface) freezing temperatures. Intensities of vibrational bands in the CH stretching region acquired under different polarization conditions show systematic, chain length dependent changes. Data provide clear evidence of methyl group segregation at the liquid/vapor interface, but two different models of alkane chain structure can predict chain length dependent changes in band intensities. Each model leads to a different interpretation of the extent to which different chain segments contribute to the anisotropic interfacial region. One model postulates that changes in vibrational band intensities arise solely from a reduced surface coverage of methyl groups as alkane chain length increases. The additional methylene groups at the surface must be randomly distributed and make no net contribution to the observed VSF spectra. The second model considers a simple statistical distribution of methyl and methylene groups populating a three dimensional, interfacial lattice. This statistical picture implies that the VSF signal arises from a region extending several functional groups into the bulk liquid, and that the growing fraction of methylene groups in longer chain alkanes bears responsibility for the observed spectral changes. The data and resulting interpretations provide clear benchmarks for emerging theories of molecular structure and organization at liquid surfaces, especially for liquids lacking strong polar ordering. (c) 2006 American Institute of Physics.