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A molecular perspective of water at metal interfaces

When water binds to solid surfaces it forms a large variety of structures, which leads to behaviour relevant to many technological processes and phenomena such as lubrication, heterogeneous catalysis and electrochemistry. This Review discusses current understanding of the interface between water and flat metal surfaces at the atomic and molecular levels, as well as open questions in this field.

Abstract

Water/solid interfaces are relevant to a broad range of physicochemical phenomena and technological processes such as corrosion, lubrication, heterogeneous catalysis and electrochemistry. Although many fields have contributed to rapid progress in the fundamental knowledge of water at interfaces, detailed molecular-level understanding of water/solid interfaces comes mainly from studies on flat metal substrates. These studies have recently shown that a remarkably rich variety of structures form at the interface between water and even seemingly simple flat surfaces. In this Review we discuss the most exciting work in this area, in particular the emerging physical insight and general concepts about how water binds to metal surfaces. We also provide a perspective on outstanding problems, challenges and open questions.

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Figure 1: Schematics (top) and molecular models (bottom) of the traditional model for water/ice adsorption on a solid surface.
Figure 2: Experimental STM images of water clusters and overlayers on metals.
Figure 3: Experimental STM images and geometrical models predicted by theory for a water monomer and water clusters on various metal surfaces.
Figure 4: STM and DFT results for water on Cu(110).
Figure 5: STM and DFT results for extended water overlayers on two different metal surfaces.

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Acknowledgements

J.C. is a Ramón y Cajal fellow and Newton Alumnus supported by the Spanish Government and The Royal Society, respectively. A.M. is supported by the European Research Council and the Royal Society through a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.

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Carrasco, J., Hodgson, A. & Michaelides, A. A molecular perspective of water at metal interfaces. Nature Mater 11, 667–674 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat3354

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