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Water world: The sequel

and his colleagues observed in their movies was that the hydrogen bonds which held two, three or four water molecules together in a cluster forced the cluster into a geometric configuration that was mismatched with the lattice of the palladium surface. The individual water molecules within these clusters could no longer be bound to the palladium's lattice points with the same strength as when they were isolated. This allowed dimers, trimers and tetramers to easily slide across the palladium's surface.

When clusters reached five water molecules in size, however, the combined strength of the water-substrate bonds prevailed and the movement of the pentamers slowed or stopped altogether. The addition of a sixth water molecule created highly stable hexamer rings, which spread out as a hexagonal honeycomb structure over the palladium substrate. This, too, brought a surprise.

Explains Salmeron, "The hexagonal honeycomb of water molecules does not exactly match palladium's lattice and as a result honeycombs grow to a certain size and then stop, forming islands across the substrate's surface. As additional water molecules are introduced, they pile up on top of these islands. Slight heating will break these islands up into holes that form beautiful patterns, like nanometer-scale snow flakes."

Working with Salmeron on this study were Toshi Mitsui and Frank Ogletree, both with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division, and Mark Rose and Evgueni Fomin, students with the Physics Department of the University of California at Berkeley. Their results were reported in the September 13 issue of the journal Science.

A lot of time, effort, and money goes into water-proofing materials so they don't stain, mildew, rust, or suffer any of the other damages that can happen when something gets wet. The interaction of water with surfaces drives a wide variety of important phenomena that include wetting, corrosion
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-496-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
16-Sep-2002


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