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Layering Transitions and Solvation Forces in an Asymmetrically Confined Fluid

By Maria C. Stewart and Robert Evans


We consider a simple fluid confined between two parallel walls (substrates), separated by a distance L. The walls exert competing surface fields so that one wall is attractive and may be completely wet by liquid (it is solvophilic) while the other is solvophobic. Such asymmetric confinement is sometimes termed a `Janus Interface'. The second wall is: (i) purely repulsive and therefore completely dry (contact angle 180 degrees) or (ii) weakly attractive and partially dry (the contact angle is typically in the range 160-170 degrees). At low temperatures, but above the bulk triple point, we find using classical density functional theory (DFT) that the fluid is highly structured in the liquid part of the density profile. In case (i) a sequence of layering transitions occurs: as L is increased at fixed chemical potential (mu) close to bulk gas--liquid coexistence, new layers of liquid-like density develop discontinuously. In contrast to confinement between identical walls, the solvation force is repulsive for all wall separations and jumps discontinuously at each layering transition and the excess grand potential exhibits many metastable minima as a function of the adsorption. For a fixed temperature T=0.56Tc, where Tc is the bulk critical temperature, we determine the transition lines in the L, mu plane. In case (ii) we do not find layering transitions and the solvation force oscillates about zero. We discuss how our mean-field DFT results might be altered by including effects of fluctuations and comment on how the phenomenology we have revealed might be relevant for experimental and simulation studies of water confined between hydrophilic and hydrophobic substrates, emphasizing it is important to distinguish between cases (i) and (ii).Comment: 16 pages, 13 figure

Topics: Condensed Matter - Soft Condensed Matter
Publisher: 'AIP Publishing'
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.1063/1.4869868
OAI identifier:

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