Modeling organic surfaces with self-assembled monolayers


  • This work was funded in part by the Office of Naval Research, by (DARPA/URI), and by the National Science Foundation through grants to the Harvard University Materials Research Laboratory.


The interfacial properties of organic materials are of critical importance in many applications, especially the control of wettability, adhesion, tribology, and corrosion. The relationships between the microscopic structure of an organic surface and its macroscopic physical properties are, however, only poorly understood. This short review presents a model system that has the ease of preparation and the structural definition required to provide a firm understanding of interfacial phenomena. Long-chain thiols, HS(CH2)nX, adsorb from solution onto gold and form densely packed, oriented monolayers. By varying the terminal functional group, X, of the thiol, organic surfaces can be created having a wide range of structures and properties. More, complex systems can be constructed by coadsorbing two or more thiols with different terminal functional groups or with different chain lengths onto a common gold substrate. By these techniques, controlled degrees of disorder can be introduced into model surfaces. We have used these systems to explore the relationships between the microscopic structure of the monolayers on a molecular and supramolecular scale and their macroscopic properties. Wettability is a macroscopic interfacial property that has proven of particular interest.