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Nanoscale measurement of water diffusion on a topological insulator: The origin of correlated motion and friction

Tamtögl, Anton, Sacchi, Marco, Avidor, Nadav, Calvo-Almazán, Irene, Townsend, Peter S. M., Bremholm, Martin, Hofmann, Philip, Ellis, John and Allison, William (2020) Nanoscale measurement of water diffusion on a topological insulator: The origin of correlated motion and friction Nature Communications, 11, 278 (2020).

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The microscopic motion of water is a central question, but gaining experimental information about the interfacial dynamics of water for instance in catalysis, biophysics and nanotribology is extremely challenging due to its ultrafast dynamics, and the complex interplay of intermolecular and molecule-surface interactions. Here we present the first experimental and computational study of the nanoscale-nanosecond motion of water at the surface of a topological insulator (TI, Bi2Te3). In addition to the technological relevance and scientific interest on the interfacial behaviour of water, understanding the interaction of TI surfaces with molecules is a key to design and manufacturing for future applications. However the surface chemistry of these materials has hitherto been hardly addressed and exploratory work on the motion of molecules on TI surfaces has been so far solely based on computational studies. By analysing the scattering lineshape from helium spinecho spectroscopy and comparing the results with van der Waals-corrected density functional theory calculations we are able to obtain a general insight into the diffusion and mobility of water on a topological insulator surface. Instead of the expected Brownian motion, we find strong evidence of a complex diffusion mechanism which follows an activated hopping motion on a corrugated potential energy surface and shows signatures of correlated motion with unusual repulsive interactions between the individual water molecules. From the experimental lineshape broadening we determine the diffusion coefficient, the diffusion energy and the pre-exponential factor.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences > Chemistry
Authors :
Tamtögl, Anton
Avidor, Nadav
Calvo-Almazán, Irene
Townsend, Peter S. M.
Bremholm, Martin
Hofmann, Philip
Ellis, John
Allison, William
Date : 14 January 2020
DOI : 10.1038/s41467-019-14064-7
Copyright Disclaimer : Copyright 2020 The Authors Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Uncontrolled Keywords : Topological insulators Bi2Te3; Surface diiffusion; Water, Surface adsorption; Surface dynamics; Density functional theory calculations
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Diane Maxfield
Date Deposited : 08 Jan 2020 12:57
Last Modified : 31 Jan 2020 13:29

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