Physical Chemistry

On the Emergence of Electric Fields at the Water-C12E6 Surfactant Interface


We study the properties of the interface of water and the surfactant Hexaethylene Glycol Monododecyl Ether (C12E6)
with a combination of Heterodyne-Detected Vibrational Sum Frequency Generation (HD-VSFG), Kelvin-Probe measurements, and Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations. We observe that the addition of C12E6 close to the critical micelle concentration (CMC), induces a drastic hydrogen bond strength enhancement of the water molecules close to the interface, as well as a flip in their net orientation. The mutual orientation of the water and C12E6 molecules, leads to the emergence of a broad (~ 3 nm) interface with a large electric field of ~ 1V/nm, as evidenced by the Kelvin-Probe measurements and MD simulations. Our findings may open the door for the design of novel electric-field tuned catalytic and light harvesting systems anchored at water-surfactant air interface.


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Supplementary material

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Supporting Information E-Field 2021