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Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Dr Kislon Voitchovsky

Voïtchovsky, K., Giofrè, D., Segura, J. J., Stellacci, F. & Ceriotti, M. (2016). Thermally-nucleated self-assembly of water and alcohol into stable structures at hydrophobic interfaces. Nature Communications 7: 13064.

Author(s) from Durham


At the interface with solids, the mobility of liquid molecules tends to be reduced compared
with bulk, often resulting in increased local order due to interactions with the surface of the
solid. At room temperature, liquids such as water and methanol can form solvation structures,
but the molecules remain highly mobile, thus preventing the formation of long-lived
supramolecular assemblies. Here we show that mixtures of water with methanol can form a
novel type of interfaces with hydrophobic solids. Combining in-situ atomic force microscopy
and multiscale molecular dynamics simulations, we identify solid-like two-dimensional
interfacial structures that nucleate thermally, and are held together by an extended network
of hydrogen bonds. On graphite, nucleation occurs above B35 C, resulting in robust,
multilayered nanoscopic patterns. Our findings could have an impact on many fields where
water-alcohol mixtures play an important role such as fuel cells, chemical synthesis,
self-assembly, catalysis and surface treatments.