The dielectric function profile across the water interface through surface-specific vibrational spectroscopy and simulations

10 March 2022, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The dielectric properties of interfacial water on sub-nanometer length scales govern chemical reactions, carrier transfer, and ion transport at interfaces. Yet, the nature of the interfacial dielectric function has remained debated as it is challenging to access the interfacial dielectric with sub-nanometer resolution. Here, we use the vibrational response of interfacial water molecules probed using surface-specific sum-frequency generation (SFG) spectra to obtain exquisite depth resolution. Different responses originate from water molecules at different depths, and report back on the local interfacial dielectric environment via their spectral amplitudes. From experimental and simulated SFG spectra at the air/water interface, we find that the interfacial dielectric constant changes drastically across a ~1 Å thin interfacial water region. The strong gradient of the interfacial dielectric constant leads, at charged planar interfaces, to the formation of an electric triple layer that goes beyond the standard double-layer model.


Aqueous Interfaces
Sum-Frequency Generation Spectroscopy
Dielectric properties of interfacial water


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