• Characterizing Heterogeneously Charged Mineral Oxide Surfaces Using Nonlinear Spectroscopy

      Borguet, Eric; Levis, Robert J.; Voelz, Vincent; Yeganeh, Mohsen S. (Temple University. Libraries, 2019)
      Mineral oxide/aqueous interfaces play an important role in the transport of water through aquafers and streams, erosion, the formation of beaches and river deltas, nuclear waste storage, the sequestration and filtration of small ions, and are widely used in industrial scale catalysis. Unlike metal or semiconductor electrodes, the surface charge resulting from the protonation or deprotonation of insulating mineral oxides is highly localized and heterogeneous in nature. While the unique acid/base chemistry associated with different mineral oxide surfaces leads to their wide variety of applications, the extent to which surface groups found on mineral oxides partake in acid/base chemistry is still controversial due to the difficulty associated with experimentally probing them. Surface specific spectroscopic techniques, such as vibrational Sum Frequency Generation (vSFG), provide an opportunity to investigate how the surface architecture and corresponding chemical nature of various mineral oxide surfaces orient the interfacial solvent at a variety of solvent compositions and surface charges. Although vSFG has been used as a tool to measure the orientation and composition of interfacial O-H species originating from the surface and solvent for many mineral oxide/aqueous interfaces since the late 1990’s, controversy still exists in the assignment of vSFG spectra in the O-H stretching region of SiO2, Al2O3, CaF2, and TiO2/aqueous interfaces. The first section of this dissertation focuses on how the nonlinear optics and computational community’s understanding of the structure associated with mineral oxide/aqueous interfaces has evolved and where it stands now. Of particular interest is how the addition of electrolyte and variation of bulk pH allow modulation of the depth of the interfacial region and surface charge. Electrolyte solutions can vary the length of the interface by screening interfacial charges through non-specific adsorption at the interface, or generating surface charge if accumulation is facilitated by specific adsorption. The specific interaction of small ions with mineral oxide surfaces is relevant in geochemistry and filtration technology, and can also aid in prediction of contaminant mobility in ground water systems. Chapters two and three discuss the theory and application of vSFG, and the experimental setup used to capture vSFG spectra in this work, respectively. The fourth chapter investigates how monovalent or divalent cations accumulate at alpha-Al2O3(0001)/H2O interfaces and reorganize the interfacial solvent structure. The reactivity of these interfaces is strongly impacted by the presence of ions. Thus, it is critical to understand how ions alter the interfacial environment. This is achieved by measuring the changes in the structure and vibrational dynamics of interfacial water induced by the presence of ions in close vicinity to the mineral surface. The alpha-Al2O3(0001) surface represents a flexible platform to study the effect of ions on interfacial aqueous environments at positive, neutral and negative surface charge. Using vibrational sum frequency generation (vSFG) in the frequency and time domain, we investigate how monovalent and divalent cations affect the hydrogen bonding environment of the first few layers of interfacial water next to an alpha-Al2O3(0001) surface. Our results indicate that monovalent cations, such as Li+, Na+, K+, and Cs+, appear to have lower adsorption affinities for the interface compared to Ca2+, Sr2+, and Ba2+. This leads to an interfacial region that is structured in a cation valence dependent manner. Time resolved vSFG measurements reveal that the O-H vibrational lifetime (T1) of interfacial species at pH 10 conditions in the presence of NaCl and BaCl2 remains similar, but restructuring of the surface seen in steady state vSFG is manifested in the degree to which strongly hydrogen bonded species recover to their original populations post excitation. By tracking the accumulation of ions at the interface via the vSFG response, we can characterize the unique surface arrangements of interfacial water molecules induced by a range of monovalent and divalent cations at the alpha-Al2O3(0001)/water interface. In the fifth chapter the Stark active C ≡ N stretch of potassium thiocyanate is used as a molecular probe of interfacial electrostatic potential at the alpha-Al2O3(0001)/H2O interface. We confirm the presence of the thiocyanate ion in the interfacial region via reorganization of surface waters in the O-H stretching region. Changes in electrostatic potential are then tracked via Stark shifts of the vibrational frequency of the C ≡ N stretch. Our vSFG measurements show that we can simultaneously measure the SFG response of SCN- ions experiencing charged and neutral surface sites and assign a local potential of + 308 mV and -154 mV to positively and negatively charged aluminol groups, respectively. Thiocyanate anions at charged surface sites adopt similar relative orientations independent of surface charge, but adopt an opposite orientation at neutral surface sites. MD-DFT simulations of SCN- near the neutral alpha-Al2O3(0001)//H2O interface show that the vSFG response in the C ≡ N stretch region originates from a SCN-H-O-Al complex, suggesting the surface site specificity of these experiments. By tracking how this molecular probe responds to local surface charges we offer insight into the local electrostatic potential at neutral and charged surface aluminol groups. Chapter six investigates the vibrational dynamics of potassium thiocyanate at the alumina/water interface. Here, we leverage the sensitivity of the C ≡ N stretch vibrational lifetime of potassium thiocyanate to measure the local electrostatic potential at the alpha-Al2O3(0001)/H2O interface. To accomplish this, KSCN was investigated using free induction decay vSFG (FID-vSFG) and time resolved pump probe (TR-vSFG) measurements, which measure the total dephasing time and vibrational lifetime of the excited C ≡ N stretch, respectively. Our FID-vSFG spectra suggest that at all surface charges the total dephasing time of SCN- is on the order of ~300-600 fs. TR-vSFG characterizations of potassium thiocyanate report the vibrational lifetime of the excited C ≡ N stretch between ~0.5-2 ps. TR-vSFG measurements show two distinct vibrational relaxation rates, which are assigned the CN stretch and the HOH bend plus libration combination band of interfacial water. The variation in the T1 lifetime of the CN stretch with bulk pH show that changes in the SCN- net orientation measured using steady-state vSFG can be correlated to the vibrational dynamics in the interfacial region. The energy transfer to the bend plus libration combination band of water is also sensitive to the surface charge, as the lifetime of this species becomes shorter as the bulk pH is increased. Lastly, in chapter seven this thesis is summarized, and future directions of the experiments presented here are discussed.