Controlling wettability by light: illuminating the molecular mechanism
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The functionalisation of a surface with an organic monolayer containing photoactive moieties such as the azobenzene chromophore opens an elegant route for controlling its wettability by light. In this paper we investigate the microscopic origin of the macroscopic change in wettability upon photo-induced cis-trans isomerization of a copolymeric diphenyl-diazene Langmuir-Blodgett monolayer. Polarised UV-Vis and FTIR spectroscopy have been used to monitor the orientational order of various functional groups, Atomic Force Microscopy and Imaging Ellipsometry is employed for the quantification of the surface roughness and morphology, contact angle and surface potential measurements are carried out for a characterisation of the polar ordering. The data analysis is further supported by semi-empirical and ab-initio calculations of the molecular dipole moments and the normal IR-modes of the fluorinated chromophore. The combination of all these techniques provides a detailed molecular picture. The data suggest that changes in the projection of the dipole moment onto the surface normal caused by isomerization of the azobenzene are responsible for the observed changes in the surface energy. This knowledge allowed us to predict guidelines for the synthesis of molecules in order to maximize the wetting contrast upon photo-irradiation.
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