Probing the Structure and Dynamics of Interfacial Water with Scanning Tunneling Microscopy and Spectroscopy

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


Water/solid interfaces are ubiquitous and play a key role in many environmental, biophysical, and technological processes. Resolving the internal structure and probing the hydrogen-bond (H-bond) dynamics of the water molecules adsorbed on solid surfaces are fundamental issues of water science, which remains a great challenge owing to the light mass and small size of hydrogen. Scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) is a promising tool for attacking these problems, thanks to its capabilities of sub-Ångström spatial resolution, single-bond vibrational sensitivity, and atomic/molecular manipulation. The designed experimental system consists of a Cl-terminated tip and a sample fabricated by dosing water molecules in situ onto the Au(111)-supported NaCl(001) surfaces. The insulating NaCl films electronically decouple the water from the metal substrates, so the intrinsic frontier orbitals of water molecules are preserved. The Cl-tip facilitates the manipulation of the single water molecules, as well as gating the orbitals of water to the proximity of Fermi level (EF) via tip-water coupling. This paper outlines the detailed methods of submolecular resolution imaging, molecular/atomic manipulation, and single-bond vibrational spectroscopy of interfacial water. These studies open up a new route for investigating the H-bonded systems at the atomic scale.