Monovalent Ion - Graphene Oxide Interactions are Controlled by Carboxylic Acid Groups: Sum Frequency Generation Spectroscopy Studies

07 February 2024, Version 3
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Graphene oxide (GO) is a two dimensional, mechanically strong, and chemically tunable material for separations. Elucidating GO-ion-water interactions at the molecular scale is highly important for predictive understanding of separation systems. However, direct observations of the nanometer region by the GO surfaces under operando conditions is not trivial. Therefore, thin films of GO at the air/water interface can be used as model systems. With this approach, we study the effects of alkali metal ions on water organization near graphene oxide films at the air/water interface using vibrational sum frequency generation (SFG) spectroscopy. We also use an arachidic acid Langmuir monolayer as a benchmark for a pure carboxylic acid surface. Theoretical modeling of the concentration-dependent sum frequency signal from graphene oxide and arachidic acid surfaces reveals that the adsorption of monovalent ions is mainly controlled by the carboxylic acid groups on graphene oxide. An in-depth analysis of sum frequency spectra reveals at least three distinct water populations with different hydrogen bonding strengths. The origin of each population can be identified from the concentration dependent variations of their SFG signal. Interestingly, interfacial water structure seemed mostly insensitive to the character of the alkali cation, in contrast to similar studies conducted at the silica/water interface. However, we observed an ion-specific effect with lithium, whose strong hydration prevented direct interactions with the graphene oxide film.


Graphene Oxide
Air-water interface
Vibrational sum frequency generation spectroscopy
Langmuir monolayer
carboxylic acid moiety

Supplementary materials

Supporting Information
Details of the theoretical model, pH dependent SFG data, UV-vis spectra, SFG fit parameters.


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