A Simple Method for Floating Graphene Oxide Films Facilitates Nanoscale Investigations of Ion and Water Adsorption

14 February 2024, Version 2
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Graphene oxide (GO) is a promising material for separations. Nanoscale GO thin films at the air/water interface are excellent experimental models to understand molecular-scale interactions of ions and water with GO. However, the characteristics of GO, such as functional groups and flake size, also affect the thin film properties making it difficult to make systematic studies with GO thin films. This paper reports a simple, reliable, and quick method of preparing ultra-thin GO films, irrespective of their origin, and demonstrates the new opportunities possible with the utilization of this method. The total amount of GO used to form the thin film is significantly less compared to previous examples in the literature, minimizing the dissolved GO in the subphase. X-ray reflectivity (XR) studies show that the majority of the GO film has 1.5 nm thickness over a macroscopic area (~ 100 cm2) with very small roughness. Sum frequency generation (SFG) spectroscopy measurements show that H2O and D2O interact differently with GO films, a property that was not observed before. SFG data show that functional groups vary significantly between different commercially available GO samples. The differences are also characterized with XR at high resolution. X-ray fluorescence near total reflection (XFNTR) measurements show that these differences strongly affect ion adsorption and interfacial water behavior near GO, which are vital properties in separation applications. The results pave the way for future studies to elucidate the complex separation mechanisms with GO.


Graphene oxide
ion adsorption
x-ray reflectivity
sum frequency generation spectroscopy
air/water interface
x-ray fluorescence near total reflection

Supplementary materials

Supporting Information
Experimental details of SFG and synchrotron experiments, XPS characterization of GO films, additional SFG data on D2O subphase, zoomed in version of Figure 2c, and fit parameters of SFG and XR data analysis.


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