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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Nonlinear optical studies of aqueous interfaces, polymers, and nanowires

  • Author(s): Onorato, Robert Michael
  • Advisor(s): Saykally, Richard J
  • et al.

Understanding the structure and composition of aqueous interfaces is one of the most important current problems in modern science. Aqueous interfaces are ubiquitous in Nature, ranging from aerosols to cellular structures. Aerosol chemistry is presently the most significant unknown factor in predicting climate change, and an understanding of the chemistry that occurs at aerosol interfaces would significantly improve climate models. Similarly, the nature of aqueous biological interfaces has a profound effect on the structure and function of proteins and other biological structures. Despite the importance of these problems, aqueous interfaces remain incompletely understood due to the challenges of experimentally probing them.

Recent experimental and theoretical results have firmly established the existence of enhanced concentrations of selected ions at the air/water interface. In this dissertation, I use an interface-specific technique, UV second harmonic generation (SHG), to further investigate the adsorption of ions to the air/water interface and to extend the study of ion adsorption towards more biologically relevant systems, alcohol/water interfaces.

In Chapter 2, I describe resonant UV-SHG studies of the strongly chaotropic thiocyanate ion adsorbed to the interface formed by water and a monolayer of dodecanol, wherein the Gibbs free energy of adsorption was determined to be -6.7 ± 1.1 and -6.3 ± 1.8 kJ/mol for sodium and potassium thiocyanate, respectively, coincident with the value determined for thiocyanate at the air/water interface. Interestingly, at concentrations near and above 4 M, the resonant SHG signal increases discontinuously, indicating a structural change in the interfacial region.

Recent experimental and theoretical work has demonstrated that the adsorption of bromide is particularly important for chemical reactions on atmospheric aerosols, including the depletion of ozone. In Chapter 3, UV-SHG resonant with the bromide charge-transfer-to-solvent band and a Langmuir adsorption model are used to determine the affinity of bromide for both the air/water and dodecanol/water interfaces in the molar concentration regime. The Gibbs free energy of adsorption for the former is determined to be -1.4 kJ/mol with a lower 90% confidence limit of -4.1 kJ/mol. For the dodecanol/water interface the data are best fit with a Gibbs free energy of +8 kJ/mol with an estimated a lower limit of -4 kJ/mol.

Adsorption of ions to the air/water interface in the millimolar regime is a particularly interesting phenomenon. In Chapter 4, the affinity of sodium chloride and sodium bromide to the air/water interface is probed by UV-SHG. Both salts exhibit a strong adsorption, with free energies greater than -20 kJ/mol. Interestingly, sodium chloride exhibits a stronger affinity for the interface than does sodium iodide, which was previously studied by Poul Peterson. This is counter to both experimental and theoretical results for higher concentrations. It has been predicted that ion adsorption is dictated by strong and opposing electrostatic and entropic forces. The change in order of ion interfacial affinity can be explained by relatively small changes in these forces at different concentrations and ionic strengths.

In Chapters 5 and 6, other work using nonlinear optical techniques is described. Coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering microscopy is a promising tool for chemically selective imaging based on molecular vibrations. While CARS is currently used as a biological imaging tool, many variations are still being developed, perhaps the most important being multiplex CARS microscopy. Multiplex CARS has the advantage of comparing images based on different molecular vibrations without changing the excitation wavelengths. In Chapter 5, I demonstrate both high spectral and spatial resolution multiplex CARS imaging of polymer films using a simple scheme for chirped CARS with a spectral bandwidth of 300 cm-1.

In Chapter 6, the nonlinear optical properties of KNbO3 nanowires are studied. Using SHG and sum frequency generation, efficient nonlinear optical frequency conversion is demonstrated in single KNbO3 nanowires that act as optical waveguides, yielding a coherent tunable subwavelength light source.

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