A Reversibly Switching Surface

Science  17 Jan 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5605, pp. 371-374
DOI: 10.1126/science.1078933

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We report the design of surfaces that exhibit dynamic changes in interfacial properties, such as wettability, in response to an electrical potential. The change in wetting behavior was caused by surface-confined, single-layered molecules undergoing conformational transitions between a hydrophilic and a moderately hydrophobic state. Reversible conformational transitions were confirmed at a molecular level with the use of sum-frequency generation spectroscopy and at a macroscopic level with the use of contact angle measurements. This type of surface design enables amplification of molecular-level conformational transitions to macroscopic changes in surface properties without altering the chemical identity of the surface. Such reversibly switching surfaces may open previously unknown opportunities in interfacial engineering.

  • * Present address: Department of Chemistry and School of Molecular Science (BK21), Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejeon 305-701, Korea.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: rlanger{at}

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