Mechanical-chemical coupling at surfaces: prediction and experiment
While the partial atomic volume of foreign atoms in solid solutions or of constituents in intermetallic compounds, and hence the coupling between the stress state and the chemical potential, have been studied already for many decades by materials scientists, up to now the analogous processes at surfaces have not received much attention. The key goal of this project is the investigation of the coupling between the mechanics of surfaces and adsorption. The basic phenomenon is that a capillary force, the surface stress, is coupled to changes of state at the materials surface. Thus, the adsorption of atoms from gas or ions from solution, or the enrichment/depletion of electronic charge at the surface prompts deformation of the material. This phenomenon has recently found application in modern biosensors, whose miniaturized cantilevers deform measurably upon adsorption of atoms or molecules. Furthermore, it has been shown that the controlled reversible adsorption/desorption of atoms or ions can prompt large strain in nanoporous solids that promise application as metallic actuators with large amplitude and strain energy density. Understanding of the microscopic mechanisms behind the coupling of changes of state at materials surfaces and the stress state is still rudimentary at best. A theory that could predict the coupling strength for a given materials surface and adsorbate is still missing. Moreover, the surface stress changes upon reversible adsorption and desorption of light elements, which are particularly relevant for applications in actuation and sensing, remain poorly studied. In this context, the present proposal aims at 1.) providing for the first time quantitative values for the coupling between capillary force and adsorption from both experiment and theory and 2.) insight into the underlying microscopic mechanims. As model processes we plan to study the adsorption of H and O on Au, Pt and Ir surfaces. The theoretical method for calculation of the coupling strength is density functional theory. For efficient and exhaustive screening of the configuration space we additionally employ cluster expansion methods. In experiment, changes of the surface stress upon adsorption from gas and electrosorption are determined from cantilever bending. Complementary measurements of the variation of the electrode potential as a function of strain during different electrosorption processes are carried out with Dynamic Electro-Chemo-Mechanical Analysis, a technique developed by one of the applicants.