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Reversible dewetting of a molecularly thin water film in a soft graphene-mica slit pore


N. Severin, P. Lange, I.M. Sokolov, and J.P. Rabe

Nano Lett. (2012), Article ASAP


Abstract: The behavior of water and other molecular liquids confined to the nanoscale is of fundamental importance, e.g., in biology, material science, nanofluidics, and tribology.(1-4) Direct microscopic imaging of wetting dynamics in subnanometer pores is however challenging. We will show in the following that a molecularly thin water film confined between mica and graphene is fluid. Ambient humidity allows to control the wetting and dewetting of the film. We follow these processes in space and time using scanning force microscopy imaging of the graphene conforming to the film. At sufficiently high humidity a continuous molecularly thin water film wets the interface between the graphene and mica. At lower humidities the film dewets with fractal depressions exhibiting dimensions around 1.7 and depths comparable to the size of a water molecule. The soft graphene cover offers a previously unexplored semihydrophilic slit pore of self-adjustable size, which enables high-resolution imaging of confined molecularly thin fluid films, and bears the potential for the fabrication of novel nanofluidic devices.