Ion Penetration of the Water-Oil Interface

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Science  24 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5449, pp. 2482-2485
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5449.2482

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Ions typically pass with difficulty from water into organic phases because of water's superior solvation power. This inhibits such processes as ion transport in batteries or in lipid bilayers of cells. Ion penetration across such an interface was studied with unusual structural control. Hydronium ions were soft-landed at 1 electron volt on cold films of 3-methylpentane (“oil”) on a metal substrate. The field produced by these ions drove them through the films when warmed. Coadsorption of water (0.14 to 35 bilayers) inhibited the ion penetration by creating a solvation energy trap. A Born solvation model successfully predicted the trapping energies (0 to 38 kilojoules per mole).

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