The proposed project intends to obtain a molecular insight into the order and structure of thin wetting films (solid/liquid/gas) as an effort to relate molecular properties to macroscopic measureable parameters such as surface forces and contact angles. The approach will consist in combining two powerful surface sensitive vibrational spectroscopic techniques (Vibrational Sum Frequency and Total Internal Reflection Raman spectroscopies) with an apparatus capable of measuring the forces exerted between these asymmetric surfaces as a function of distance (Thin Film Pressure Balance). VSFS is intrinsically surface specific probing the first few monolayers and detecting only molecules with a preferred orientation. Conversely, TIR Raman probes deeper into the bulk (~100 nm), but detects all molecules making these two techniques complementary. Results will provide unique information on the structural changes in nanometer confined geometries of i) pure water films, ii) surfactant and polymer stabilized films and iii) biophysical relevant surfaces (planar supported lipid bilayers). The project will involve close collaboration between two research groups in Europe (Germany and England), and will help developing the applicant’s independent research skills during his period of reintegration. The applicant’s unique experience in surface vibrational spectroscopy and molecules under confinement, learnt particularly during his previous Marie Curie fellowship, will be decisive in the successful implementation of this challenging project.
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