Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sandia researchers solve mystery of attractive surfaces

07.08.2006
When smooth surfaces that hate water approach each other underwater, scientists have observed that they snap into contact. This is apparently due to attractive forces that extend for tens to hundreds of nanometers.

But action over these distances -- though small to us -- are unexplainable by conventional theories, which find no standard force sufficiently long-ranged to accomplish this task.

The action is of considerable possible importance. Long-range attractions between hydrophobic surfaces might help guide the complex folding of proteins, for example, from their initial passive clothesline-like shape into the active fist-like formations upon which life depends.

In a paper published this Thursday in the journal Nature, Sandia National Laboratories researchers were able to increase the long-ranged attraction from nanometers to microns by inserting rough hydrophobic surfaces in place of smooth ones. They also were able to slow the reaction down, enabling them to measure the attraction and visually observe its origin -- a cavitation called a vapor bubble that bridges the gap between the submerged surfaces.

These experiments offer new insight into the long-range attractions that encourage hydrophobic surfaces to snap together under water. The improved observation led the group to conclude that cavitation may be responsible in general for the hydrophobic interactions that exceed the known range of van der Waals or electrostatic forces.

The new test conditions were effected, first, by using rough, so-called superhydrophobic surfaces rather than conventional smooth hydrophobic surfaces.

Superhydrophobic surfaces, on which water droplets roll like marbles, can be formed simply by evaporating liquid from a silica solution in an assembly process developed by Sandia Fellow Jeff Brinker.

The interactions of superhydrophobic materials underwater have not been studied.

"Previous experimentalists had always used smooth materials -- but the common materials of nature are rough, and roughness greatly influences the interaction with water," says Brinker.

In addition, a microscope that resists the 'snap-together' effect enabled the Sandia team to measure the forces involved as the surfaces closed upon each other.

The microscope, called an Interfacial Force Microscope, is similar to an Atomic Force Microscope, but a teeter-totter end piece allows the tip to maintain its distance and measure the forces acting on it rather than succumbing to them. The IFM was developed and patented under the direction of Sandia researcher Jack Houston and is now available at some universities.

Through IFM resistance, the group slowed the 'snap' into a longer time frame that allowed step-by-step observation of what exactly was happening in the formerly indecipherable moment.

"When force becomes overwhelming for an AFM, surfaces snap together uncontrollably," says Houston. "The IFM just measures the force without caving in to it. We can move in as slowly as we want until we reach the point of contact."

"There's no other instrument that can do that," says first author Seema Singh, who did the experimental work under direction of Brinker and Houston.

The group observed that two superhydrophobic surfaces approaching each other force the water between them to change state to a vapor, creating a cavity. This cavitation has less internal pressure, so external water pressure forces the two hydrophobic surfaces at each end of the cavity closer.

This very long-range attractive interaction may be a longer scale version of the unexplained interactions seen to-date for smooth surfaces.

The superhydrophobic material was self-assembled by simply drying a slurry of hydrophobically modified silica in a technique originally developed to create super low-density silica aerogels. During drying, the silica gel shrinks and re-expands to create a rough, rather than smooth, surface. The roughness creates a spike-like effect, causing a water drop to adopt an almost spherical shape.

"This greater hydrophobicity apparently increased the distance over which cavitation could occur, allowing it to be visually imaged for the first time," says Sandia researcher Frank Van Swol, who calculated the theoretical cavitation distance and the energy and forces associated with cavitation.

Asked whether the observed reaction might offer some insight into the mechanisms by which proteins fold, Brinker said, "The only evidence so far for things snapping together comes from the measurements of interactions between flat smooth hydrophobic surfaces underwater. The longer-range interactions for rough surfaces may more closely represent how proteins fold, since proteins are certainly not flat surfaces."

Rough superhydrophobic surfaces have been of much recent interest for their self-cleaning properties -- the so-called Lotus effect, where rolling drops of water cleanse such surfaces of particles and parasites.

Neal Singer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sandia.gov
http://www.sandia.gov/news/resources/releases/2006/snap.html

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Robust and functional – surface finishing by suspension spraying
19.09.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Keramische Technologien und Systeme IKTS

nachricht Graphene and other carbon nanomaterials can replace scarce metals
19.09.2017 | Chalmers University of Technology

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecular Force Sensors

20.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Producing electricity during flight

20.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

20.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>