Nanometer-resolved interfacial fluidity

Richard C. Bell, Hanfu Wang, Martin J. Iedema, James P. Cowin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Confined liquids can have properties that are poorly predicted from bulk parameters. We resolve with 0.5 nm resolution the nanoscale perturbations that interfaces cause on fluidity, in thin 3-methylpentane (3MP) films. The films of glassy 3MP are much less viscous at the vacuum-liquid interface and much more viscous at the 3MP-metal interface, compared to the bulk of the film. We find that the viscosity at the interfaces continuously returns to the bulk value over about a 3 nm distance. The amorphous 3MP films are constructed using molecular beam epitaxy on a Pt(111) substrate at low temperatures (<30 K). Ions are gently inserted at specific distances from the substrate with a 1 eV hydronium (D〈inf〉3〈/inf〉O〈sup〉+〈/sup〉) or Cs〈sup〉+〈/sup〉 ion beam. The voltage across the film, which is directly proportional to the position of the ions within the film, is monitored electrostatically as the film is heated at a rate of 0.2 K/s. Above the bulk glass transition temperature (T〈inf〉g〈/inf〉) of 3MP (77 K), the ions are expected to begin to move down through the film. However, ion movement is observed at temperatures as low as 50 K near the vacuum interface, well below the bulk T〈inf〉g〈/inf〉. The fitted kinetics predict that at 85 K, the glass is about 6 orders of magnitude less viscous near the free interface compared to that of the bulk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5176-5185
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 30 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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