Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: Nanoscale
The far-reaching interplay between the speciation of polyoxometalates (POMs) in the liquid phase and the POM adsorption characteristics on substrate surfaces yet remains to be understood. The significance of this interplay is however paramount because it indicates the degree of technical applicability of solvent-processable POM molecules. Herein, we target this fundamentally important issue, shedding light on the "POM-counterion-solvent" and "POM-counterion-solvent-substrate" processes. We effectively combine the results from small-angle X-ray scattering in solution with surface sensitive scanning tunneling microscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy measurements and present on this basis a semi-quantitative analysis which provides an excellent correlation between both approaches. The MeCN-solution speciation of a tris(alkoxo)-ligated Wells-Dawson-type polyoxoanion - explored as a representative of commonly negatively charged POM-based inorganic-organic nanostructures - is strikingly connected with the growth of porous two-dimensional molecular layers on highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG). Low water amounts dramatically transform intermolecular relationships toward hierarchical agglomeration that inhibits the layer formation on HOPG. The obtained findings lay the groundwork for a mechanistic study of controlled nucleation and growth of POM nanostructures on weakly interacting surfaces.