Ultra-Smooth, Chemically Functional Silica Surfaces for Surface Interaction Measurements and Optical/Interferometry-Based Techniques

Howard A. Dobbs, Yair Kaufman, Jeff Scott, Kai Kristiansen, Alex M. Schrader, Szu Ying Chen, Peter Duda, Jacob N. Israelachvili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The study of interfacial phenomena is central to a range of chemical, physical, optical, and electromagnetic systems such as surface imaging, polymer interactions, friction/wear, and ion-transport in batteries. Studying intermolecular forces and processes of interfaces at the sub-nano scale has proven difficult due to limitations in surface preparation methods. Here, we describe a method for fabricating reflective, deformable composite layers that expose an ultra-smooth silica (SiO2) surface (RMS roughness < 0.4 nm) with interferometric applications. The robust design allows for cleaning and reusing the same surfaces for over a week of continuous experimentation without degradation. The electric double-layer forces measured using the composite surfaces are within 10% of the theoretically predicted values. We also demonstrate that standard chemisorption and physisorption procedures on silica can be applied to chemically modify the surfaces; as a demonstration of this, the composite surfaces are successfully modified with octadecyltrichlorosilane (OTS) to study their hydrophobic interactions in water using a surface force apparatus (SFA). These composite surfaces provide a basis for the preparation of a variety of new surfaces, and should be particularly beneficial for the SFA and colloidal probe methods that employ optical/interferometric and electrochemical techniques, enabling characterization of previously unattainable surface and interfacial phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1700630
JournalAdvanced Engineering Materials
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • SFA and other force measuring techniques
  • substrate fabrication for imaging and force measurements
  • surface and interfacial phenomena
  • surface materials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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