Uncovering microscopic hydrophilicity and hydrophobicity at heterogeneous aqueous interfaces is essential as it dictates physical and chemical properties such as wetting, electrical double layer, reactivity. Here, we combine density functional theory-based MD simulations (DFT-MD) and both theoretical and experimental SFG spectroscopy to explore how the interfacial water responds in contact with self-assembled monolayers (SAM) of tunable hydrophilicity. We introduce a microscopic metric to track the transition from hydrophobic to hydrophilic interfaces, which combines a structural descriptor based on the preferential orientation within the water network in the topmost binding interfacial layer (BIL) and spectroscopic fingerprints of H-bonded and dangling OH groups of water pointing towards the surface carried by BIL-resolved SFG spectra. This metric builds a bridge between molecular descriptors of hydrophilicity/hydrophobicity and spectroscopically measured quantities, and provides a recipe to quantitatively or qualitatively interpret experimental SFG signals.
We have added a more detailed and critical description of the comparison between experimental and theoretical SFG spectra. We have added a section of Fresnel factor correction in the supporting information.
Supporting information for On the trail of molecular hydrophilicity and hydrophobicity at aqueous interfaces