Research ArticlePHYSICS

Water nanostructure formation on oxide probed in situ by optical resonances

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Science Advances  25 Oct 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 10, eaax6973
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax6973


The dynamic characterization of water multilayers on oxide surfaces is hard to achieve by currently available techniques. Despite this, there is an increasing interest in the evolution of water nanostructures on oxides to fully understand the complex dynamics of ice nucleation and growth in natural and artificial environments. Here, we report the in situ detection of the dynamic evolution of nanoscale water layers on an amorphous oxide surface probed by optical resonances. In the water nanolayer growth process, we find an initial nanocluster morphology that turns into a planar layer beyond a critical thickness. In the reverse process, the planar water film converts to nanoclusters, accompanied by a transition from a planar amorphous layer to crystalline nanoclusters. Our results are explained by a simple thermodynamic model as well as kinetic considerations. Our work represents an approach to reveal the nanostructure and dynamics at the water-oxide interface using resonant light probing.

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