Water Diffusion and Clustering on Pd(111)

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Science  13 Sep 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5588, pp. 1850-1852
DOI: 10.1126/science.1075095

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The adsorption, diffusion, and clustering of water molecules on a Pd(111) surface were studied by scanning tunneling microscopy. At 40 kelvin, low-coverage water adsorbs in the form of isolated molecules, which diffuse by hopping to nearest neighbor sites. Upon collision, they form first dimers, then trimers, tetramers, and so on. The mobility of these species increased by several orders of magnitude when dimers, trimers, and tetramers formed, and decreased again when the cluster contained five or more molecules. Cyclic hexamers were found to be particularly stable. They grow with further exposure to form a commensurate hexagonal honeycomb structure relative to the Pd(111) substrate. These observations illustrate the change in relative strength between intermolecular hydrogen bonds and molecule-substrate bonds as a function of water cluster size, the key property that determines the wetting properties of materials.

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