Volume of a Nanoscale Water Bridge
figureposted on 31.01.2006, 00:00 by Lucel Sirghi, Robert Szoszkiewicz, Elisa Riedo
Water bridges formed through capillary condensation at nanoscale contacts first stretch and then break during contact rupture. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) pull-off experiments performed in air with hydrophilic tips and samples show that stretched nanoscopic water bridges are in mechanical equilibrium with the external pull-off force acting at the contact but not in thermodynamic equilibrium with the water vapor in air. The experimental findings are explained by a theoretical model that considers constant water volume and decrease of water meniscus curvature during meniscus stretching. The model predicts that the water bridge breakup distance will be roughly equal to the cubic root of the water bridge volume. A thermodynamic instability was noticed for large water bridges formed at the contact of a blunt AFM tip (curvature radius of 400 nm) with a flat sample. In this case, experiments showed rise and stabilization of the volume of the water at the contact in about 1 s. For sharp AFM tips (curvature radius below 50 nm), the experiments indicated that formation of stable water bridges occurs in a much shorter time (below 5 ms).