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Probing liquid/liquid interfaces at and away from equilibrium using vibrational sum frequency generation

Publication Type
Conference Paper
Journal Name
Proceedings of SPIE
Publication Date

The self-assembly and transport of species at oil/aqueous interfaces represent key mechanistic steps in processes spanning from liquid extraction to soft-matter neuromorphic electrical devices. While technologically and fundamentally important, there is a notable lack of chemical understanding regarding these buried interfaces due to challenges in differentiating species located at the surface from the nearby bulk phases. In this work, we will describe some of the challenges in probing chemistry at these liquid/liquid interfaces and detail the approaches we have developed using vibrational sum frequency generation to enable studies of these complex interfaces at and away from equilibrium. From these spectroscopic developments, new insight into solvation, ion pairing, aggregation, complexation, and transport will be discussed in the context of solvent extraction chemistry. Notably, we show how the presence of both oil and aqueous phases provides an environment to drive fundamentally different phenomena from what is observed at model air/aqueous interfaces. This difference arises from key differences in solvation and bulk populations that feedback onto the surface to drive emergent and often functional molecular assemblies.