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Aqueous Nanoscale Systems

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Water is the most important liquid for life. It is intimately linked to our well-being. Without water, cell membranes cannot function. Charges and charged groups cannot be dissolved, self-assembly cannot occur, and proteins cannot fold. Apart from the intimate link with life, water also shapes the earth and our climate. Our landscape is formed by slow eroding/dissolving processes of rocks in river and sea water; aerosols and rain drops provide a means of transport of water. In most of the above mentioned systems it is the interfacial region (of the membrane, the droplet, or the particle) that determines much of the physical, chemical, biological, and geological properties. Experimentally, interfacial water is often considered in one of two ways: As a background, describable by a single parameter, or simply omitted. Alternatively, it is studied in great detail in an environment or condition that is precisely defined but so oversimplified that it has little to do with the real world. Aqueous interfaces are mostly studied in vacuo, or as a planar water/air interface. To study more realistic interfaces we developed nonlinear light scattering and imaging tools to access molecular structural information of aqueous solutions and interfaces. With these methods we have discovered intriguing effects that have not been observed on planar model systems and pose a challenge for theory: • Charged species form dilute monolayers on nanoscale droplet systems rather than dense monolayers • The surface structure of water droplets is effectively ~50 K colder than an equivalent planar interface • Variations in surface potentials (3x) and chemical reaction constants (8 orders of magnitude) inside glass micro-capillaries immersed in water • Nanoscale ordering in dilute electrolyte solutions

This talk is part of the Theory - Chemistry Research Interest Group series.

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