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Study of the water dynamics near hydrophilic, nanostructured CuO surfaces by quasielastic and inelastic neutron scattering

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AIP Advances
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We have used quasielastic and inelastic neutron scattering to investigate the structure, dynamics, and phase transitions of water interacting with superhydrophilic CuO surfaces that not only possess a strong affinity for water but also a “grass-like” topography that is rough on both micro- and nanoscales. Here, we report quasielastic neutron scattering (QENS) measurements on two samples differing in water content at five temperatures below 280 K. The QENS spectra show water undergoing two different types of diffusive motion near the CuO surfaces: a “slow” translational diffusion occurring on a nanosecond time scale and a faster rotational motion. Further from the surfaces, there is “fast” translational diffusion comparable in rate to that of bulk supercooled water and the rotational motion occurring in the interfacial water. Analysis of the QENS spectra supports wetting of water to the CuO blades as seen in electron microscopy images. In addition, we observe an anomalous temperature dependence of the QENS spectra on cooling from 270 to 230 K with features consistent with a liquid–liquid phase transition. We suggest that the solvent-like properties of the coexisting bulk-like water in our CuO samples are a significant factor in determining the temperature dependence of the interfacial water’s dynamics. Our results are compared with those obtained from two well-studied substrate classes: (1) silicas that contain ordered cylindrical nanopores but have weaker hydrophilicity and (2) nanoparticles of other transition-metal oxides, such as TiO2, which share the strong hydrophilicity of our samples but lack their porosity.