Electrostatic surface charge at aqueous/alpha-Al2O3 single-crystal interfaces as probed by optical second-harmonic generation.

Research paper by Jeffrey P JP Fitts, Xiaoming X Shang, George W GW Flynn, Tony F TF Heinz, Kenneth B KB Eisenthal

Indexed on: 21 Jul '06Published on: 21 Jul '06Published in: Journal of Physical Chemistry B


Second harmonic generation (SHG) spectroscopy was used to characterize the pH-dependent electrostatic charging behavior of (0001) and (102) crystallographic surfaces of corundum (alpha-Al2O3) single-crystal substrates. The pH value of the point of zero charge (pH(pzc)) for each surface was determined by monitoring the SH response during three consecutive pH titrations conducted with 1, 10, and 100 mM NaNO3 carbonate-free aqueous solutions. The crossing point of the three titration curves, which corresponds to the pH(pzc), occurs at pH 4.1 +/- 0.4 for the (0001) surface and pH 5.2 +/- 0.4 for the (102) surface. SHG measurements that were recorded as a function of NaNO3 concentration at fixed pH values were found to corroborate the pH(pzc) values identified in the pH titrations. A comparison of the SHG results with surface protonation constants calculated using a simple electrostatic model suggests that surface relaxation and bonding changes resulting from surface hydration do not account for differences between experimental observations and model predictions. The measured pH(pzc) values for the alpha-Al2O3 single-crystal surfaces are significantly more acidic than published values for Al-(hydr)oxide particles which typically range from pH 8 to 10. This discrepancy suggests that the charging behavior of Al-(hydr)oxide particles is determined by surface sites associated with defects assuming that differences in surface acidity reflect differences in the coordination environment and local structure of the potential-determining surface groups.