Argonne National Laboratory Center for Nanoscale Materials U.S. Department of Energy

Mixing up surface properties

Mixed self-assembled monolayers

This image was selected for the "Back Scatter" back cover feature of Physics Today, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Feb. 2009)

Mixed self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) offer the intriguing possibility of tailoring wetting properties, surface energy, and other interfacial characteristics by combining suitable molecular constituents. This atomic force micrograph, 800 nm tall, shows the onset of nanoscopic phase separation in an ideally mixed two-component SAM. The small domains of each material can be distinguished with topographic contrast because of their 2-Å length difference. The larger domains are due to atomic terracing of the underlying gold surface.

Seth Darling (CNM) and Steven Sibener (University of Chicago) are working to understand the stages of phase separation in such mixed SAMs to gain insights into surface-property modifications. The molecules used in the study were synthesized by Dong-Chan Lee and Luping Yu (both at University of Chicago).

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