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Thick Two-Dimensional Water Film Confined between the Atomically Thin Mica Nanosheet and Hydrophilic Substrate

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journal contribution
posted on 25.03.2019, 00:00 authored by Cong Wei, Weihao Zhao, Xiaotong Shi, Chengjie Pei, Pei Wei, Jindong Zhang, Hai Li
The interesting properties of water molecules confined in a two-dimensional (2D) environment have aroused great attention. However, the study of 2D-confined water at the hydrophilic–hydrophilic interface is largely unexplored due to the lack of appropriate system. In this work, the behavior of water molecules confined between an atomically thin mica nanosheet and a hydrophilic SiO2/Si substrate was investigated using an atomic force microscope in detail at ambient conditions. The confined water molecules aggregated as droplets when the relative humidity (RH) of the environment was 11%. A large-area 2D water film with a uniform thickness of ∼2 nm was observed when the mica flake was incubated at 33% RH for 1 h before being mechanically exfoliated on a SiO2/Si substrate. Interestingly, the water film showed ordered edges with a predominant angle of 120°, which was the same with the lattice orientation of the mica nanosheet on top of it. The water film showed a fluidic behavior at the early stage and reached a stable state after 48 h under ambient conditions. The surface properties of the upper mica nanosheet and the underlying substrate played a crucial role in manipulating the behavior of confined water molecules. When the surface of the upper mica nanosheet was modified by Na+, Ni2+, and aminopropyltriethoxysilane (APS), only some small water droplets were observed instead of a water film. The surface of the underlying SiO2/Si substrate was functionalized by hydrophilic APS and hydrophobic octadecyltrimethoxysiliane (OTS). The small water droplets were imaged on a hydrophobic OTS-SiO2/Si substrate, while the water film with regular edges was maintained on a hydrophilic APS-SiO2/Si substrate. Our results might provide an alternative molecular view for investigating structures and properties of confined water molecules in 2D environments.

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